Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Swimmers by Joaquin Perez Azaustre

The Swimmers by Joaquin Perez Azaustre
First published as Los Nadadores in Spain in 2012 by Editorial Anagrama. English edition translated by Lucas Lyndes and published by Frisch And Co on the 13th June 2016.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Swimming and WorldReads: Spain.

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Jon├ís Ager is disappearing: a recent separation has left him aimless, his once promising photography career has ground to a halt, and his assignments at the newspaper are drying up. And an ever-deepening mystery is threatening to engulf him. His mother disappeared without a trace two weeks ago; his gallerist can’t locate his fellow photographer Oliver; and every time he and his best friend Sergio visit the pool for their regular swim, another lane is empty. An entire city seems to be evaporating into thin air.'

I was disconcerted throughout reading The Swimmers by the thought that I had somehow completely missed the point. I did find it difficult to maintain my concentration and was unusually easily diverted away so that might explain my lack of enthusiasm. The writing itself is of a literary style with great sweeps of description and eloquent evocations of art, philosophical concepts and the act of swimming itself. The novel should have been right up my street, but I just could not connect on a satisfactory level. I think Azaustre wants to portray individual alienation within our modern urban societies. I think Jonas' wish to create photography 'showing the stage after the actors have left' so the viewer is unsure whether they will return is reflected in the disappearances of people formerly close to him. However, I didn't understand whether this phenomenon was intended to be real or purely existed within Jonas' own reality. Or was Jonas that was actually disappearing from these other lives and he couldn't see that for himself?

After reading the entire novel, I am none the wiser as to what The Swimmers is actually about! I did enjoy several of the chapters as scenes in their own right and Azaustre has written a convincing portrait of a man unsure of his own identity and purpose so this has allowed my overall three star rating. I just wish the overall story arc had been given greater clarity.

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