Benjamin Labatut, “When we cease to understand the world”

I finally finished reading this fabulous book. Most of the essays in award-winning Chilean writer, Benjamin Labatut’s incredible book, When We Cease to Understand the World ( Pushkin Press) are fantastic; all except the title essay — it left me unmoved. It was slipping and sliding into spaces that were unwieldy. Nevertheless, I can understand why this slim book, translated from the Spanish by Adrian Nathan West, made it to the shortlist of the 2021 International Booker Prize. This is powerful writing. It is telling stories of the past, with acute attention to historical detail and with immense confidence. Almost as if the author witnessed the events he recounts. Interesting style, worth emulating perhaps by other writers. But the danger will always exist in such writing — where do facts end, and fiction begins? What is the truth? Can even those who witness events ever know what is the truth? Much to think about.

Frankly, I am glad I finally read this book. I will be mulling over it for a long time to come.

1 May 2022

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