Review of THE SEVEN MADMEN by Roberto Arlt

1 Jul

It’s hard to evaluate this baffling novel, which either may be a reason to read it or a reason not to. At times the irreverent, loopy proselytizing of its main characters during its central section concerning a politicized mega-organization of progressive brothels caused this reader’s eyes to glaze slightly o’er; add to that the undramatic murder finally realized in the last few pages after which a character mutters “that ought to do it” which was the only other discernible plot point in this flimsy and maddening opus, and you have an odd, airy, dreamy sort of book entrenched in monetary struggle, class divisions, and hope relegated to lunacy. These madcap digressions, soapbox characters, and ineffable flashes of deteriorating language veering into luminescence end almost arbitrarily, to be continued in the next volume (novel) entitled The Flamethrowers. This quote from the about the author section best sums this book up: “He was thrown out of school at the age of eight, reportedly for writing the following note to his teacher: “Senorita, let us run away to the sea. Dressed in black velvet I shall carry you off to my pirate ship. I swear by the corpse of my hanged father that I love you. Yours till death. Roberto Godofredo, Knight of Ventimiglia, Lord of Rocabruna, Captain of the Whaler TACTITURN.”

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