Valeria Luiselli’s “Faces in the Crowd” is surreal, spare, and stunning. In this novella, the role of narrator alternates – often from paragraph to paragraph – among three characters, all speaking in first person and with no clear demarcation or introduction to alert the reader.
One voice is a young mother and writer living in Mexico City, another is a translator in New York City whose present is very similar to the young mother’s past, and the third is the poet Gilberto Owen, subject of interest for both of the other narrators. The book jacket presented an apt and succinct description of Luiselli’s craft which I felt challenged to improve upon; “As the voices of the narrators overlap and merge, they drift into a single stream, a mingling that is also a disappearing act, and an elegiac evocation of love and loss.”
At first glance this book is a fierce tangle, but, as with pointillism, a more measured look at the right distance reveals a thing of great beauty and stunning intentionality.
“It all began in another city and another life. That’s why I can’t write this story the way I would like to – as if I were still there, still just only that other person. I find it difficult to talk about streets and faces as if I saw them every day. I can’t find the correct tenses.”
Valeria Luiselli burst onto the contemporary literary scene with this bold, declarative introduction. Her voice is original, modern, and captivating. Her presence on the international stage demands notice and promises longevity.