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This review is taken from PN Review 249, Volume 46 Number 1, September - October 2019.

Cover of Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions
Anthony BarnettDocumentation
Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (4th Estate & Coffee House) £6.99; $12.95;
Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archive (4th Estate & Knopf) £16.99; $27.95

New York-resident Mexican Valeria Luiselli’s first books – a novel, a sequence of brief essays, a second novel – were written in Spanish before being translated into English. Now she writes directly in English: most of the docu-essay Tell Me How It Ends and all of the inextricably linked novel Lost Children Archive. I don’t believe she has ever published poetry, at least not in English, but poets, mostly real, sometimes kind of imaginary, permeate her work.

If I mention her first novel, Faces in the Crowd, it is to show early proof of that: Gilberto Owen is a real Mexican poet, living in New York in 1928. Why should I expect Joshua Zvorsky to be a real poet too. I feel quite stupid checking out www to see if anything is posted there about him. I know perfectly well he is one of Valeria Luiselli’s conceits. From the first mention of these faces in the crowd it is obvious that Zvorsky, author of That, translator of Owen, is Louis Zukofsky. The more one enters the past and present obfuscations of this bonbon of a novel the clearer that, indeed all, becomes. The question I have to ask myself is why Zvorsky when all Owen, Williams, Dickinson, Pound, Lorca, Langston Hughes, half a dozen others, for example, Beckett, Wittgenstein, not to mention Duke Ellington, are checked with their real names even though their conversations, or the conversations about them, take place only in Luiselli’s imagination. Thus, a thinly disguised Louis Zukofsky, Joshua Zvorsky, engages with Mexican poet Gilberto Owen and Federico ...


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