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Mary Pappalardo on Agustín Fernández Mallo

Agustín Fernández Mallo’s Nocilla Trilogy, translated by Thomas Bunstead, has recently been published in its entirety in the United States. In an essay at Full Stop, Mary Pappalardo has used the occasion to survey the scope of Mallo’s aesthetic project:

The trilogy is an explosion of the idea of narrative itself, or at the very least of what we understand realism to mean. Early in Nocilla Lab, the eponymous narrator muses on the truth claims of various artforms, lamenting that even documentary “is not real but a kind of realism: it may emulate reality but remains no more than a cut-and-paste job, the product of an edit, a construction” and this preoccupation with the accuracy of representation carries on throughout that volume. If realism is mean to emulate reality, The Nocilla Trilogy seems to argue, and if our contemporary reality is now understood to be a complex and nearly incomprehensibly networked one, then our realism must look different in order to accurately represent that new reality. And thus: a dense series of notes and characters and quotations and geographical locations and temporal settings and narrative voices and thematic focuses and visual formats — including typewritten diary entries, photos of a TV screen, and comic-book panels — all coalesce into a behemoth of a work, one that maddens but that also accomplishes what it sets out to do. To call this trilogy realism feels out of place, because of its shocking left-turn away from received wisdom of what realism does and is; to call it anything but realism, though, is to ignore its canny fidelity to what it feels like to be in the twenty-first century.