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5.0 out of 5 stars Good things come in small doses, 28 Mar 2014
By 
Paul Villa "technophile" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spies (Kindle Edition)
I read this in an afternoon on holiday so it isn't exactly a weighty tome. That said it is lovingly crafted in a quirky, drily comic style. The characters are engaging and the translation from the original language affords an interesting perspective on the world. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered another book by the same author within minutes if finishing this one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Brazilian 'thriller', 23 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Spies (Hardcover)
The nameless editor of a tiny book publisher in Porto Alegre receives by post chapters, one by one, of a novel in progress about, or written by 'Ariadne'. She writes about being held hostage by her husband in Frondosa and announces her suicide once she finishes her book. The editor finds her a talent with great potential, despite her never using commas and many spelling errors. He falls in love with her and worries about how to proceed, as an editor and a man. As a fan of John Le Carré and Graham Greene and their works on espionage, he decides `to put a man in place in Frondosa to assess the situation and the enemy's response. He convinces some of his fellow weekend-boozers to move to the small town. And joins his team when they report no longer....

His `Operation Theseus' is based on dreams and conjecture rather than on clearly-defined targets. What follows is a mixture of amusing and dramatic scenes, cleverly linked by the author to a web of references to e.g. the mythical Ariadne of Naxos and other ancient Greeks, German philosophy, the Italian surrealist painter De Chirico and Silvia Plath, a poet famous for foretelling her own exit. And indoor soccer!

Well-plotted and written novella full of obsessions and misunderstandings. Its cast of bizarre characters is reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novels: a man who bet against Brazil in the 1950 World Cup final against Uruguay, whose life was both enriched and blighted ever since. Or the astrologer who never received a cent for his bestseller from the editor's company, and who tags and bombards him with angry letters, then joins `Operation Theseus'. Or the other team members: nihilistic Professor Fortuna and Jewish lecturer Dubin. And the brothers controlling Frondosa, who are the enemy. And Ariadne is married to one of them...

This novel is about obsessions and delusions. It is surely not a love story, nor a philosophical tract or a superbly-plotted spy novel. Readers will surely react is diverse ways to this quirky book and may highlight issues this reader ignored.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I'M A LITERATURE GRADUATE AND SEEK OBLIVION IN DRINK.", 31 Dec 2012
By 
Philoctetes (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spies (Hardcover)
The Spies is a short novel by Luis Fernando Verisssimo. It's rather droll, but quite modest really, rather like it's predecessor, Borges and the Eternal Orang-Utans [ Orangutan ]. That one was all about Borges and Poe: this one concerns the Ariadne myth, de Chirico and ______. This engagement with other authors and cultural archetypes reminds me only - within the very limited scope of my own reading - of Umberto Eco, but Luis is much lighter and funnier than the highbrow Italian.

An employee of a minor publishing house is mysteriously attracted by the manuscript sent chapter by chapter from a peculiar little town in the Brazilian interior. The author might be in peril and our narrator resolves to rescue her and publish her novel with the help of the motley bunch of drinking buddies who share his weekend boozing. One by one they enter the little town in disguise and start spinning yarns in order to remain there and find out more about the elusive, mysterious Ariadne.

And so it goes...

As I say, it's quite offbeat and amusing, and I could imagine the characters being recycled for other adventures. Unfortunately I didn't share the narrator's fascination with Ariadne - perhaps we're not meant to, really - and the ending left me a little perturbed, but it's worth a look if you want to broaden your reading to include Brazilians in translation.
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The Spies
The Spies by Luís Fernando Veríssimo (Hardcover - 25 Oct 2012)
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