The Transentients (Paperback)
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Tomás Ugarte, an advertising executive in Santiago, Chile, is grappling with a midlife crisis—turning forty, quitting his job and in the midst of a divorce—when he begins to experience inexplicable episodes of amnesia. Hoping to outrace this dilemma, he plans to travel abroad for a year and chart the second half of his life. Instead, he will journey into an unexpected, and very foreign territory, one where the boundary between the self and the other becomes dangerously interchangeable. Much like the works of Auster and Murakami, The Transentients defies easy categorization: it is a genuinely disturbing psychological novel that borders on the uncanny. A bewitching puzzle-box with a propulsive plot, as well as a high-wire act of prose, at its core lies a metaphysical mystery that ensnares both the protagonist and the reader. Stretching from the streets of Santiago onto a treacherous escarpment in the Chilean Andes and to the hills of Valparaiso, and then careening out into the vast beckoning of the Atacama desert, The Transentients traverses the porousness of reality . . . and the malleability of consciousness.
Upon its publication in Spanish, Carlos Fuentes called this novel one of the essential Latin American works of the new century. Now at last The Transentients is available to an English-speaking audience, thanks in no small part to Jessica Powell’s especially fine translation.
“Missana’s riveting novel throws open a doorway onto the fragility of the self in our time.”—Carlos Fuentes
“Returning to one of Latin American literature’s great trajectories, Missana employs characteristic features of fantastic realism, yet it is his subtle interweaving of detached narrations that sustains the novel’s unique pressure.”— Diamela Eltit
The Transentients is “not only Sergio Missana’s best novel, but one of the best published in Chile lately. He employs a vigorous style to convey an original and fascinating story . . . a tale of many facets that stretches our capacity to believe in possibilities at the frontier of rationality.”—Camilo Marks, El Mercurio
"As we read The Transentients we fall into a cascade of reflected consciousness…we absent our own skins and enter the narrator’s, who in turn absents his own to enter others’. Missana’s greatest achievement is to create a metaphor for the mystery of reading.”— Carlos Franz
In this singular portrait of a dissolving identity, Chilean novelist Missana’s English-language debut, chronicles a man’s curious midlife crisis. Tomás Ugarte, a Chilean advertising executive, has recently quit his job and separated from his wife, and begins to literally see the world through the eyes of others: a destitute woman living on the streets of Santiago; a man caught in a Patagonian snowstorm on a climbing expedition; and a screenwriter hired to write a film funded by a mysterious millionaire whose only requirement is that it feature an old theater house in the Atacama Desert. These episodes leave Tomás unsure as to whether he is meant to intervene in the lives of those whose perspective he briefly inhabits, or glean some Wordsworthian lesson about the immortality of the soul. He risks losing himself within these alternative lives, and yet these displacements are also expressions of his own personality, “different modalities of myself, with the various roles I’d been forced, like everyone else, to perform.” Missana gets off to a slow start, but as the duration and intensity of Tomás’s sojourns increase, so does the narrative pull. This slippery tale about characters trapped in a “warped” but revelatory script offers intriguing reflections on identity and determinism, as well as art and interpretation.