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Uselessness: A Novel
by Eduardo Lalo
translated by Suzanne Jill Levine
University of Chicago Press, 2017
Paper: 978-0-226-20779-7 | eISBN: 978-0-226-20765-0
Library of Congress Classification PQ7440.L29I8813 2017
Dewey Decimal Classification 863.64

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ABOUT THIS BOOK
The streets of Paris at night are pathways coursing with light and shadow, channels along which identity may be formed and lost, where the grand inflow of history, art, language, and thought—and of love—can both inspire and enfeeble. For the narrator of Eduardo Lalo’s Uselessness, it is a world long desired. But as this young aspiring writer discovers upon leaving his home in San Juan to study—to live and be reborn—in the city of his dreams, Paris’s twinned influences can rip you apart.

Lalo’s first novel, Uselessness is something of a bildungsroman of his own student days in Paris. But more than this, it is a literary précis of his oeuvre—of themes that obsess him still. Told in two parts, Uselessness first follows our narrator through his romantic and intellectual awakenings in Paris, where he elevates his adopted home over the moribund one he has left behind. But as he falls in and out of love he comes to realize that as a Puerto Rican, he will always be apart. Ending the greatest romance of his life—that with the city of Paris itself—he returns to San Juan. And in this new era of his life, he is forced to confront choices made, ambitions lost or unmet—to look upon lives not lived.

A tale of the travails of youthful romance and adult acceptance, of foreignness and isolation both at home and abroad, and of the stultifying power of the desire to belong—and to be moved—Uselessness is here rendered into English by the masterful translator Suzanne Jill Levine. For anyone who has been touched by the disquieting passion of Paris, Uselessness is a stirring saga.

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