cover of book

The Lizard's Tale: A Novel
by José Donoso
translated by Suzanne Jill Levine
edited by Julio Ortega
Northwestern University Press, 2011
Cloth: 978-0-8101-2702-9
Library of Congress Classification PQ8097.D617L3413 2011
Dewey Decimal Classification 863.64

Winner of the 2012 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Translation

José Donoso was the leading Chilean representative of the Latin American “Boom” of the sixties and seventies that included Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Manuel Puig, among others. Written as a draft in 1973, set aside, and forgotten, The Lizard’s Tale was discovered among Donoso’s papers at Princeton University by his daughter after his death. Edited for publication by critic and poet Julio Ortega, it was published posthumously in Spanish under the title Lagartija sin cola in 2007. Suzanne Jill Levine, who knew Donoso and translated two of his earlier works, brings the book to an English-language audience for the first time. 

Defeated and hiding in his Barcelona apartment, painter Antonio Muñoz-Roa—Donoso’s alter ego—relates the story of his flight with Luisa, his cousin, lover, and benefactor, after his scandalous desertion from the “Informalist” movement (a witty reference to a contemporary Spanish art movement and possibly an allusion to the Boom as well), in which he had been a member of a certain standing. Frustrated, old, and alone, the artist looks back on his years in the small town of Dors, a place he unsuccessfully tried to rescue from the crushing advance of modernity, and on the decline of his own family, also threatened by the changing times. In Levine’s able hands, Donoso’s clear prose shines through, forming a compact, powerful, and still-relevant meditation on the commercialization of art and the very places we inhabit.

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