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Mad Toy [Paperback]

Roberto Arlt
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 13.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Sep 2002
Roberto Arlt (1900-1942), celebrated in Argentina for his tragicomic, punch-in-the-jaw writing during the 1920s and 1930s, was a forerunner of Latin American "boom" and "postboom" novelists such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende. Mad Toy, Arlt's most acclaimed novel, is set against the chaotic background of Buenos Aires in the early twentieth century. Set in the badlands of adolescence, where acts of theft and betrayal become metaphors for creativity, Mad Toy is equal parts pulp fiction, realism, detective story, expressionist drama, and creative memoir. An immigrant son of a German father and an Italian mother, Arlt as a youth was poor, often hungry, and dropped out of school in the third grade. In Mad Toy he brings his personal experience to bear on the lives of his characters. Published in 1926 as El Juguete Rabioso, the novel follows the adventures of Silvio Astier, a poverty-stricken and frustrated youth who is drawn to gangs and a life of petty crime. As Silvio struggles to bridge the gap between exuberant imagination and the sordid reality around him, he becomes fascinated with weapons, explosives, vandalism, and thievery, despite a desperate desire to rise above his origins. Flavoured with a dash of romance, a hint of allegory, and a healthy dose of irony, the novel's language varies from the cultured idiom of the narrator to the dialects and street slang of the novel's many colourful characters. Mad Toy has appeared in numerous Spanish editions and has been adapted for the stage and for film. It is the second of his novels to be translated into English.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press (1 Sep 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822329409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822329404
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 14 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,176,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Arlt's influence on figures like Borges, Cortazar, Onetti, and Piglia is substantial-and equally so are his literary reverberations today, when his grim, sordid view of life seems to speak louder than ever before. "-Ilan Stavans "Roberto Arlt is the greatest Argentine writer of the twentieth century."-Ricardo Piglia "With a novel such as Mad Toy, brimming with fantasy and romance, yet pulling the rug out from under the protagonist-and the reader-at every turn, it seems clear that Arlt's purpose is not just to tell a good story. Along the way, he also illustrates the uses of fantasy and humour. Fantasy, transforming the sordid into the beautiful, makes life seem sweeter; humour, exposing the illusions of fantasy, makes wisdom tolerable."-from the Introduction

About the Author

Roberto Arlt (1900-42) was an Argentine writer who published numerous plays and novels during his lifetime.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Angle discovers Arlt 3 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I could not get hold of The Seven Madmen at a reasinable price, it was a good compromise, as I thought, to go to this new edition of Mad Toy. What an absolute gem. I have found Arlt's prose to be wonderfully written - really crafted sentences - which of course must also give praise to what amounts to a sensitive and subtle approach from a committed translator all too aware of the pitfalls that may lurk in Arlt's first novel. He uses street slang, switches between immigrant slang and the desire to talk like a gentlemen. Its not so much this that gets you, though you are aware of the nuances there. It is the pure craft that Arlt shows in hewing out sentences of wonder and sensitivity. There is a flavour of Genet here in the underclass wanting to make good, if necessary through criminal ways. There is a streak of honesty running through this writing that smacks you and makes you think that yes, I too can relate to this. This is writing from the gut and the soul. An absolute little belter and a gem. I can't wait to find The Seven Madmen.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mad or Angry? 11 Nov 2002
By Jim Stewart - Published on
Perhaps the title should of been 'Angry Toy', as Arlt's vision is one of the urban, alienated protagonists of his work being God's Angry Toys. This is Arlt's first novel and contains the seeds of all his further output. The story relates the activities of one Silvio Astier, street kid, thief, exploited employee and betrayor. His story is told with enormous(and angry)energy. Whether in terse street slang or vignettes of poetic prose Arlt captures his characters deficiencies and virtues concisely.
This is not Borges streets of Buenos Aires, but the urban squalor, people pushed to their limits, yet displaying, humour and much tenderness. There is much compassion and insight into the female experience (if oblique) as in this following excerpt as Silvio reflects on his mothers love."I was too small to walk, and she, whipped by the shadows and frantic with worry, was walking along the roadside, carrying me in her arms, warming my knees with her breast,holding my small body stretched out against her tiny frame, and she was begging for my sake,and while she was giving me her breast, the heat of a sob dried her mouth, and she took the bread from her hungering mouth for my mouth, the sleep from her nights, in order to attend to my cries, and with her eyes shining, with her body clothed in shameful rags, so small and so sad, she would open like a veil to shelter my dreams."
Silvio's story of adolescent trials is in many way's Arlt's and reflect's his own upbringing in the back streets of Buenos Aries. That Silvio does "redeem" himself, through a betrayal, is an irony somteimes easily missed. This is an important Latin American novel by an important Latin author. Michele McKay Aynesworth and Duke University are to be applauded for their efforts in bringing this novel to the english speaking reader. That it has taken nearly 80 years is an International literary scandal. Others should have similar courage and belief in Arlt's work and insist his last 2 novels be translated without delay
1.0 out of 5 stars So how did this get mixed up with MAD TOY, Michele Aynesworth's Duke UP translation? 27 Jun 2014
By Michele M. Aynesworth - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Publishers Weekly blurb and previous reviews, listed above under Womack's translation, actually refer to my translation MAD TOY published by Duke UP in 2002. In fact, if you click on "start reading now," you are referred to the Duke UP book, not this cheaper Hesperus version. And yet my translation doesn't even show up on Amazon's search engine now unless you search by my name. My version is based on the original 1926 publication of Arlt's novel, unlike this one. Mine also includes, in addition to a substantive Introduction and Note on the Translation, an appended chapter called "The Neighborhood Poet," which was originally intended by Arlt as a chapter in the novel. By coincidence, Hesperus/Womack have used the same title as my version with the simple addition of a "The." Nice going.
0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars MAD TOY - A Decent Story. 11 Feb 2010
By John H. Moore - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I feel kind of let down. A read all the hype that preceded my purchasing of MAD TOY and thought that I was getting a true gem of a novel. However MAD TOY did not live up to its promise. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed MAD TOY but not as much as I thought that I would. I wanted to give MAD TOY four stars but I could not bring myself to do so. Three stars may not be enough; maybe three and a half stars. The story was good but I feel that something was missing - that something that makes a good novel great. I don't know what it is but I do know that I did not want more when I finished reading MAD TOY. Great novels always leave me wanting more. I would recommend Roberto Bolano instead. His 2666: A Novel and The Savage Detectives: A Novel have that greatness I refered to. I have not felt the need to look for more of Roberto Arlt's work. I cannot give MAD TOY a whole hearted recommendation however I would say if you were given a copy by all means read it.
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