Published by Other Press on June 18, 2013
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
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By the celebrated Oulipo writer, this brilliant and witty novel set in Lisbon explores love, relationships, and the strange balance between literature and life. Journalist, writer, and translator Vincent Balmer moves to Lisbon to escape from a failing affair. During his first assignment there, he teams up with Antonio—a photographer who has just returned to the city after a ten-year absence—to report for a French newspaper on an infamous serial killer’s trial. While walking around the city together to take notes and photos for the article, they visit the places of Antonio’s childhood, swap stories from their pasts, and confide in each other. But the more they learn about each other, the more their lives become inextricably intertwined. With a structure that parallels Homer’s Odyssey, Eléctrico W recounts their nine days together and the adventures that proliferate to form a constellation of successive ephemeral connections and relationships.
Hervé Le Tellier’s Eléctrico W is a simple, quiet kind of novel. It has a minimalist plot, keeping the main focus on its characters and their stories – the stories that make them who they are.
We experience these nine days through Vincent’s narrative. Vincent seems to be working through a lot of confusion regarding his affair with Irene. He manipulates those around him, even those he has yet to meet, in order to reconcile and work through his conflicted feelings. He also doesn’t seem to have considered the natural consequences of his interference. Vincent is definitely confused, still trying to figure out what he wants and how he feels.
The novel seems to just drift along… slowly, not a lot of action, but there’s something kind of nice about it. The characters are strongly developed, each one unique. When the plot lulls, which to me felt often, the interest is shifted to exploring each character. I especially liked Aurora’s spirited energy; she was by far the most entertaining personality in the book.
Eléctrico W is a nice character-driven read that shows how our relationships can impact even those we meet briefly.