Severina (The Margellos World Republic of Letters) (Paperback)

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Severina (The Margellos World Republic of Letters) By Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Chris Andrews (Translated by) Cover Image
By Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Chris Andrews (Translated by)
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Staff Reviews

The ultimate book about working in a bookstore, and one of my favorite books of all time.  Brilliantly sly, humorous and strange. A bookstore owner in Guatemala City is alternatingly menaced and seduced by an attractive shoplifter and her minder/boyfriend/grandfather.  In the tradition of slim, unforgettable works of Latin American fiction like Pedro Paramo, Distant Star, or The Invention of Morel, but with an addictive, charming style that is all Rey Rosa’s own.

— From Chris's Picks


A new translation of the Guatemalan author whom Roberto Bolaño called “the most rigorous writer of my generation, the most transparent…the most luminous of all.”

“Right from the start I picked her for a thief, although that day she didn’t take anything. . . . I knew she’d be back,” the narrator/bookseller of Severina recalls in this novel’s opening pages. Imagine a dark-haired book thief as alluring as she is dangerous. Imagine the mesmerized bookseller secretly tracking the volumes she steals, hoping for insight into her character, her motives, her love life. In Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s hands, this tale of obsessive love is told with almost breathless precision and economy. The bookstore owner is soon entangled in Severina’s mystery: seductive and peripatetic, of uncertain nationality, she steals books to actually read them and to share with her purported grandfather, Señor Blanco.
In this unsettling exploration of the alienating and simultaneously liberating power of love, the bookseller’s monotonous existence is rocked by the enigmatic Severina. As in a dream, the disoriented man finds that the thin border between rational and irrational is no longer reliable. Severina confirms Rey Rosa’s privileged place in contemporary world literature.

About the Author

Rodrigo Rey Rosa is perhaps the most prominent writer on the Guatemalan literary scene. Along with the work of writers like Roberto Bolaño, Horacio Castellanos Moya, and Fernando Vallejo, Rey Rosa’s fiction has been widely translated and internationally acclaimed. His books include Dust on Her Tongue, The Beggar’s Knife, and The Pelcari Project, all of which were translated into English by the late Paul Bowles. In addition to his many novels and story collections, Rey Rosa has translated books by Bowles, Norman Lewis, François Augiéras, and Paul Léautaud.  
Chris Andrews teaches at the University of Western Sydney and is a prize-winning poet. He has translated the works of numerous Latin American authors, among them Roberto Bolaño and César Aira.


Praise For…

“In this short novel [Rey Rosa] opts to tell a different kind of tale, abounding with restlessness and compulsion. The narrator becomes obsessed with the title character, a young woman with a penchant for stealing from the bookstore he owns. His discovery of her motives sets in motion a series of interconnected musings on the nature of storytelling, truth, and fiction itself.”—Tobias Carroll, New York magazine

“Rey Rosa's book is both precious and precise. Its intense dreams, aphorisms, and literary lists are best read in one sitting. The author keeps readers on tenterhooks as issues of identity and desire ebb and flow along with a suspenseful episode involving the burying of a body. The fable here is a tale of love and forgiveness, which also includes the thievery of a book from Jorge Luis Borges's library. And while it would be impertinent to steal a copy, it is hard not to be tempted to grab a copy of this slim, terrific book.”—Publishers Weekly
— Publishers Weekly

Severina is a satisfying, nicely crafted, and entertaining small tale of bookish obsessions, recommended to all who like a bit of clever literary fun.”—Complete Review
— Complete Review

Severina is a nuanced but passionate homage to the act of reading, to a life lived, as the narrator finally puts it, 'exclusively for and by books'.”—Zyzzyva
— Zyzzyva

“A complex meditation on books and why people read them; on the value of libraries, both public and private; and on how books contribute to the very essence of life for cultures, societies, and individuals.”—Seeing the World Through Books
— Seeing the World Through Books

Product Details
ISBN: 9780300196092
ISBN-10: 0300196091
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: February 25th, 2014
Pages: 112
Language: English
Series: The Margellos World Republic of Letters