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The News From Paraguay

By Lily Tuck

Original Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Current Publisher
: Harper Perennial

Harold Augenbraum writes:

On the first page of The News from Paraguay, which is set in an unknown (by most people) and perhaps unknowable place, a blue feather appears. I remember it as being the only primary color in the book (though this might not be true, it remains in my memory), the rest being muted tones of brown and gray, like a series of vintage photographs described and detailed as portraits in words but without any cloyingly romantic or nostalgic description, a spareness of attitude toward objects and scenes that results in structures poking through like skeletons: letters, lists, songs, poems. Gradually, the structures deteriorate, and the characters end up in muck and mire, with no edifice left to either their lives or stories. It’s so interesting that the country dissolves around them as well, as if the external and internal world were so linked in the writer’s imagination that the “real” world in the book and the “imagined” world can fall apart simultaneously. The ridiculous war that serves as a backdrop to the story of love and marriage at the center of the novel, the real war between Paraguay and Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, The War of the Triple Alliance that took place in the 1850s and still angers many in Paraguay, brings down the political and personal world in which the main character Ella plays an unexpected role. I remember when I first read it five years ago thinking that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq lay as undercurrents to this mad war in Paraguay, but that’s no matter. What matters in this book is the consistent mining of narrative voices in the service of fractured and frantic lives.

After you read this, read Lily Tuck’s earlier Siam, about another woman caught up in political irrationality.

Harold Augenbraum is Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, an editor and translator.

ISBN: 9780739451595

Fiction Finalists that Year:

  • Sarah Shun-lien Bynum for Madeleine is Sleeping
  • Christine Schutt for Florida
  • Joan Silber for Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories
  • Kate Walbert for Our Kind

Fiction Judges that Year:

Linda Hogan, Randall Kenan, Rick Moody, Stewart O’Nan, Susan Straight

The Year in Literature:  

  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  • Elfriede Jelinek won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

More Information:

Lily Tuck has published four novels, a collection of short stories, and a biography. In addition to her National Book Award for The News from Paraguay, she also received a nomination for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her novel, Siam. Her collection of short stories, Limbo, or Other Places I Have Lived, was published in 2002, and her most recent book, Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante, was published in 2008.

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Reader Comments (1)

I'm disappointed that there is no allusion to the debate surrounding 2004's NBA. While both sides cast the other as the villains of the Western World, it was still a fascinating look into what the NBA--or any prize--should be. Indeed, all the authors nominated that year now enjoy a greater stature at least in part because their names were mentioned so often in the course of the donnybrook. Far more than the unknown nominees of other, more stately and placid, years.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew
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