Stranded in Rio

Varados en Río

We’re used to feeling expelled from Paradise, but what happens when we find ourselves expelled in Paradise? When we are offered beauty and the illusion of happiness, which we are unable to accept?

Rio de Janeiro is both a place and an idea. For many it has long represented image and desire; a place that precipitates and renews humanity´s age old fantasies. A city with a place in an imaginary world map where Jauja, Shangri-La, Xanadu and El Dorado also exist. In summary: an earthly paradise, la cidade maravilhosa where beauty, sun, voluptuous bodies and the joy of perpetual carnival coexist. But it is also a difficult place to be an exile: the people who don´t believe the promises that Rio represents but who need to keep hearing them. Seen through the eyes of foreign writers who find themselves lost there, it also becomes poverty stricken and rainy, dreamlike and violent. Rio´s  secret pleasures described by Manuel Puig; the ramshackle and hostile Rio that Rosa Chacel discovered; the legendary and sophisticated Rio of the 50s, of the ultra-modern houses, political intrigue and the gilded bohemia that Elizabeth Bishop knew; the Rio painfully distant from the photos of Stefan Zweig´s suicide.

Like a character in a detective novel, Javier Montes retraces his almost invisible footprints to write a collective story of globalised city and the way that exile can change us. More than a home, Rio was for them a place where they began to question the meaning of the word: why we travel and what coming home means.

Half travel diary and half literary essay, Javier Montes again demonstrates a rare talent to transcend genre without losing narrative momentum. As J. Ernesto Ayala-Dip wrote in El País: «Javier Montes is not innocent. It was said that André Gide was the greatest anti-novel novelist. That´s not to say that Montes writes like Gide. But like him, he writes classic novels that offer a renovated vision of the genre. A singular way of creating stories for today.»

«A literary work that satisfies the reader both because of itsdiscoveries and reflections of a city like Rio, and because of its exploration of the meanings of exile through the eyes of four writers… Without doubt,a great work that brings a singular pleasure, page after page of enjoyable reading» (Santiago Aizarna, El Diario Vasco)

«A complex, ambitious and unclassifiable book. A portrait of a city taken from the experiences of four writers (alongside the author himself)» (Ángel  Vivas, El Mundo)

«In this book, Javier Montes attempts to go deep into the peculiarities of exile, interweaving his own experiences in Rio de Janeiro, where he lived for some time, with that of four other writers who once lived there: Manuel Puig, Rosa Chacel, Elisabeth Bishop and Stefan Zweig. Following their tracks like a detective from a noir novel, a versatile Montes turns to diverse genres to study the ways in which exile can change us» (Javier Yuste, El Cultural).

You can read some fragments translated into English for Brick Magazine and Granta:


SERIESNarrativas hispánicas
El Mundo
El Cultural
Abc Cultural

Javier Montes

Javier Montes (Madrid, 1976) won the Premio José María de Pereda with his first novel, Los penúltimos, which was followed by his next novel, Segunda parte. Along with Andrés Barba he won the Premio Anagrama de Ensayo for La ceremonia del porno. He also collaborated in the publication of  After Henry James. In 2010, Granta included him among their selection of the best young authors writing in the Spanish language and his stories have appeared in collections like Puros cuentos (Letras Libres, 2008) and Life in Cities. An Anthology of European Contemporary Writers (Minumsa, Seoul, 2009). He regularly contributes to the publications ABC, El País, Letras Libres, Revista de Libros, Granta UK, Revista de Occidente, Letra Internacional and Arquitectura Viva. He has curated exhibitions like Beckett Films (CAAC, 2011) and was a professor of Art History at the Spanish College in Malabo (Equatorial Guinea). His novels have received excellent reviews: «Montes evokes a grandiose world, where he comments on the Statism of life beyond apparent change» (Michael Kerrigan, Times Literary Supplement).

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