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The Absolute (Paperback)
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Premio Municipal de la Novela 2021
Premio Nacional de Literatura Argentina 2018
Premio Literario de la Academia Argentina de Letras 2017
Best Novel Award by La Nación 2016
A provocative multigenerational exploration of creative genius, madness, and family relationships. With the ambition and density of style of Vladimir Nabokov or Olga Tokarczuk, this is a story both profound and handled with a light touch.
The Absolute is a sprawling historical novel about the Deliuskin-Scriabin family, made up of six generations of geniuses and madmen. Beginning in the mid-18th century in Russia, across Europe and ending in late 20th-century Argentina, the characters’ lives play out in different branches of art, politics and science in such radical ways that they transform the world and its reality. The narrator’s ancestor, Frantisek Deliuskin, invents a new form of music in the 18th century; his son, Andrei Deliuskin, makes some marginal annotations to the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola that are later interpreted by Lenin as an instruction manual to carry out the Russian Revolution of 1917; Esau Deliuskin, following the course of his father, creates a socialist utopian society; and down through the generations to the narrator, whose creation takes him back in time and space to the moment of the Big Bang.
The Absolute is a monumental work about the creation of art and about family, about spiritual traditions and about throwing oneself into the world not to capture life but to create it, in and through words.
“This is a masterpiece at a time when masterpieces seem impossible and at the same time challenges the very idea of a masterpiece. … It’s the novel one should read if they want to know what an artist is.” —La Nación
About the Author
Daniel Guebel has published over twenty-five books, including novels, short stories and plays. He won Argentina’s National Literature Prize as well as the Argentine Academy of Letters’ novel prize. The Absolute was chosen by La Nación newspaper as its book of the year and The Emperor’s Pearl won the Emecé Prize. His autobiographical book The Jewish Son also won the Buenos Aires Book Fair’s award for literary criticism. Guebel’s latest novel is A Japanese Crime. A lover of Japanese literature, he owns a sushi restaurant.
Jessica Sequeira is a writer and literary translator. She is the author of the novel A Furious Oyster, the story collection Rhombus and Oval, the essay collection Other Paradises: Poetic Approaches to Thinking in a Technological Age and the hybrid work A Luminous History of the Palm. She has translated over twenty books by Latin American authors, and in 2019 was awarded the Premio Valle-Inclán for her translation of Sara Gallardo’s Land of Smoke.
"A quixotic enterprise concerned with a quixotic enterprise founded on a desire to understand and memorialize a succession of quixotic enterprises."—Leo Robson, New York Times
"Guebel’s prose throughout, in the able hands of his gifted translator Jessica Sequeira, adds to the many pleasures of this wholly original text. Guebel’s great novel is a timely reminder of why our translators are our best travel writers, bringing us on excursions and to places that we can only ever read about."—Michael Cronin, The Irish Times
"Argentine writer Guebel’s exceptional English-language debut serves up the multigenerational tale of the historical Deliuskin-Scriabin family, a motley bunch of artists, scientists, and politicians. Guebel begins with the story of composer Frantisek Deliuskin, who, in 18th-century Russia, finds inspiration in sex (“It’s like living in a heaven that flows with scents and skins and moans,” he writes in a journal). Then there’s Frantisek’s son, Andrei, orphaned as a child, whose annotations of St. Ignatius Loyola’s work are used by Lenin to organize 1917’s Russian Revolution. Esau Deliuskin, Andrei’s son, leads a Robin Hood–style gang, escapes from prison after being convicted for an assassination attempt on Archduke Franz Ferdinand, then leads a failed socialist settlement. Esau’s son, Alexander Scriabin, who is lost in a crowd at age three from his mother and twin, Sebastian, before the others embark for Buenos Aires, is raised for a time by Russian soldiers and later employed by a controversial writer and mystic. Later, he becomes a famous pianist with an unfinished masterpiece. Sebastian Deliuskin, who grows up in Argentina and also becomes a pianist, has a daughter who narrates the book. As the characters experience love, jealousy, and despair, Guebel offers erudite meditations on music, art, and philosophy, all marked by a superb use of language. This is best savored slowly."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Intellectually adventurous, multigenerational novel of a family’s quest to find meaning in the world. . . . A Borges-ian masterwork that neatly blends magic realism, mysticism, and off-color yarns into a superb whole."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“There is a Guebelian style, and it's so rare for a writer to have a style (it's so rare for someone who writes to be a real writer) that one just has to accept it."
“Guebel is a genius. He is the best novelist of his generation, my generation. The most solid of our great authors.”
“His writing is a tour de force. This is a masterpiece at a time when masterpieces seem impossible and at the same time challenges the very idea of a masterpiece. This is the only novel I would have wanted to write. It’s the novel one should read if they want to know what an artist is.”
—Pablo Gianera, La Nación
“Guebel writes from that crystal frontier where creativity meets madness, where imagination meets delirium. His cast of eccentrics often reminds us of Borges’ characters, but of a Borges gone wild.”
—Carlos Fonseca, author of Natural History
"The Absolute is an extraordinary novel, an exploration of memory and music, of social history, science and family ties. Guebel's remote ancestor is Richard Burton and his Anatomy of Melancholy; his contemporaries, Norman Manea and W.G. Sebald."
—Alberto Manguel, author of A History of Reading