Mona by Pola Oloixarac (Translated from Spanish by Adam Morris) - review by Paul Abbott

Paul Abbott

Six Authors in Search of Some Character

Mona

By

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‘There was something about her that was a little off,’ we’re told about the titular protagonist of Mona, the Argentine writer Pola Oloixarac’s third novel. On the surface, Mona is a young Peruvian novelist whose successful debut earned her a teaching job at Stanford, where she is also completing a PhD and hyper-consciously ‘playing the part of an over-educated Latina adrift in Trump’s America’. On the surface of her body, Mona is furtively carrying marks of a recent trauma she is unwilling or unable to explain. Suffused through the novel is her repeated question ‘how long do bruises last?’

Mona is one of an international group of authors nominated for the Basske-Wortz Prize, alternately described as ‘the most important literary award in Europe’ and ‘four days of intrigue and quiet desperation’. In a picturesque Swedish lakeside village, authors speak at panel events, take walks through nature and have sex and arguments with one another. While the €200,000 prize money and acclaim are occasionally referenced by Mona and her peers, the focus is initially on the intrigue and desperation. A catwalk of award candidates strut and wobble under the considerable weight of their own, often cynical, performativity. Abdollah, a

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