Personae by Sergio De La Pava

Book Review by Ross McIndoe | 18 Oct 2013
  • personae
Book title: Personae
Author: Sergio De La Pava

Postmodern to the core, Sergio De La Pava's Personae starts out telling the story of Detective Helen Tame –  musical prodigy/polymathic essayist extraordinaire turned homicide cop – as she tries to impose order on the chaos of the cosmos one case at a time. De La Pava's boundlessly kinetic prose, however, sends it tearing off away from this conventional central narrative, touching down in existential quandaries, metatextual discourses on the art of writing, intertextual dissections of the work of the great Gabriel García Márquez, hallucinogenic theological debates in the jungle of Colombia and a two-act play that reads something like a mesmerising marriage of Samuel Beckett and Lewis Carroll, before briefly checking in with the original story once again.

There's a moment during the play in which one character, to the total disbelief of his compatriots, suddenly and inexplicably pulls a sword out of thin air. At many of its more mind-bending twists and turns, Personae often leaves the reader with a similar sense of dumbfounded perplexity, but by combining its absurdist wit and fierce intelligence with a core of heartfelt emotion, it remains completely irresistible even when it's being more than a little incomprehensible. [Ross McIndoe]

Out now, published by University of Chicago Press, RRP £12