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Necropolis [Paperback]

Santiago Gamboa

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Product Description

Book by Gamboa, Santiago

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Something was telling me that the loose or badly sewed threads of my life could be put back together again." July 1 2012
By Mary Whipple - Published on
(4.5 stars) A literary conference in the King David Hotel, Jerusalem, is operating by candlelight after bombs kill the power there. Attending this conference is the novel's unnamed speaker, "E.H," now living in Rome after a two-year convalescence from a serious illness. He has no idea why he has been invited. The list of other participants offers him no clues: an expert in Jewish religious texts and a passionate lover of chess; a stamp collector from Colombia who has written a grammar book; a Miami-based, former evangelical pastor and drug addict who has written only religious texts; and the lone woman, a porn actress and the founder of the highly successful Eve Studios, who has been the star and producer of hundreds of porn films. Each of these participants will tell a novella-length story during this conference on biography and memory, and as their stories unwind, the reader begins to wonder if the conference itself is a kind of necropolis, a memorial to mankind's complex past and its yet-to-be-buried horrors, attended by speakers, each of whom inhabits a personal "necropolis" by revisiting the past.

The novel that follows is packed with non-stop action even as it considers some of life's biggest subjects: life and death, God (the Big Enchilada) and Satan, love and sex, truth and lies, poverty and wealth, memory and reality, language and the past, and assorted related subjects such as the need for solitude and for hope, the irresistible urge for revenge, and the inescapable violence which is responsible for the declining civility of modern life. Despite the extraordinary number of these "heavy" metaphysical themes and the sometimes allegorical connotations, however, Colombian author Santiago Gamboa, creates a can't-put-it-downer of a novel, filled with excitement and unusual characters leading unusual lives.

The first and longest story is told by Jose Maturana, a former bank robber and drug addict, whose violence has landed him in Moundsville Prison in West Virginia. After being beaten up badly by a visiting evangelical preacher, Jose becomes a convert. Eventually, the ministry they share becomes huge - and extremely wealthy - and Jose begins to suspect financial misdealings. The second story is the tale of two chess champions from Poland and Sweden, their marriages and later widower-hood, and their long friendship. The third story tells of hardworking Colombian Ramon Mela Garcia, a shop owner who is unwilling to pay extortion to paramilitaries, who then accuse him of collusion with FARC in drug-running. He plans a terrible revenge for his betrayers. Sabina Vedovelli's story is as graphically pornographic in its telling as her film career, with no holding back here in the descriptions of every move she makes to please her partners and her film fans.

Literary ironies and humor fill the novel, and reading this book is a total experience. I still find myself thinking back, trying to connect all the stories and themes into a coherent whole, and I'm still working on reconciling some of them. The novel's conclusion raises even more questions about the dark direction in which the author sees civilization moving. Often compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his choice of themes, Gamboa does not veer into Marquez's magic realism, but contains those elements within the context of a particular character's story and not the arc of the plot. Challenging, thoughtful, and loads of fun, this is the most ambitious new novel I've read in a very long time.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can't Turn Away from the Horror April 2 2013
By K. Egan - Published on
This is one of those books where not one of the characters is sympathetic and where nothing good, uplifting, or inspirational happens. The stories that comprise the plot are hard, sordid, miserable, torrid, brutal, criminal, and frequently disgusting. The worst traits of humanity are exposed not once but repeatedly from page 1 to the end. And yet I was enthralled from the first to the last. It is one of those books for which any short description is inadequate -- i.e., "A convalescing writer attends a literary conference in war-torn Jerusalem, hears the hard knock life stories of other participants, and tries to solve a murder." But it leaves the reader changed in a small and irreversible way. There is a shocking amount of porn in the book and it is not clear why at first but in the end analysis, the book could not have been written without it.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic literature. Aug. 8 2012
By M. Haber - Published on
I am only two-thirds through this novel but felt obligated to praise it when I saw only 1 review for it. This is literary storytelling at its finest. The style is learned and beautiful but not difficult or tedious. There are stories within stories (some bizarre and some historical) and a thread that flows through all of them. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys Roberto Bolano, David Mitchell and other contemporary novelists. My favorite discovery of the year! I hope they translate more of Gamboa's novels into English. Thank you Mr. Gamboa and Europa Editions and Howard Curtis for the fine translation.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much, too little April 19 2013
By andrkuc - Published on
I bought this book on some of the positive reviews it had received, and the promising premise. However, the author seems to have overextended himself in trying to make a decent book great. The stories (there are several storylines in the book) twist and turn, but not in a way that moves the overarching story forward. By the end of the book, I was thinking to myself, "just get on with it, already!"
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed Dec 24 2012
By aryeh louv - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is bloated. Bloated with stories, characters, places - so many it's hard to keep track of them. The name-dropping of authors, philosophers, artists and other prominent figures past and present supposedly gives the author and the book an aura of sophistication, but it is overdone, counter-productive and only sigh-inducing. So are all the philosophies rattled off by the multitude of characters who are in the process of saving, destroying or re-organising this world.
Now I'll look for some reading matter that is concise, focused and with a touch of humor.

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