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In the extensive dedication to his novel El Dorado, author Robert Juan-Cantavella acknowledges his debts, both real and symbolic, and thanks the “urban planners and the building industry mafia, who, aside from running the country, have given me a theme to write about” and “politicians in general, for demonstrating with their idiocy that the American dream is possible in any corner of the planet.” In this devastating journey through a Spain on the verge of mortgaging itself to the hilt, the author satirizes the pope’s visit to Valencia in 2006; furthermore, he contemplates the insanity of the promoters and backers of tourist megalopolis Marina D’or; a set of attacks that exterminate all the crowned heads on the planet and part of the Spanish aristocracy; and the bankruptcy of the middle class and the nuclear family. Robert Juan-Cantavella has the best aim and sense of humor of all the literary “terrorists” in Spain. It couldn’t be otherwise: he is the great European disciple of Hunter S. Thompson. This extraordinary novel partakes of a hybrid aesthetic. Journalism, impossibly perverted in its ends and means, is combined with the literary, which is itself split between attention to the immense profanity of the real and the preservation of intelligence and irony when confronted by events that put an end to any capacity for judgment and critical discernment. Both extremes of contemporary experience are portrayed by Cantavella. With El Dorado Cantavella is part of a literary tradition (think of the picaresque, the Quixote, Quevedo or Rabelais as well as Robert Coover or David Foster Wallace) of authors who have made parody (or rather, the comic disassembly of the dominant beliefs of a determined social order) the primary tool of their hilarious inventions. After participating in this hysterical catharsis, the reader will experience an immediate improvement in his mental faculties. (Translated by Beth Wadell and Scott Esposito)
Juan Francisco Ferré is the author of the short story collection Metamorfosis® and the novels La vuelta al mundo, I Love You Sade, and La fiesta del asno. His most recent novel, Providence, was a finalist for the Premio Herralde de Novela, given by the Spanish publisher Anagrama.
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