The Things We’ve Seen by Agustín Fernández Mallo (Translated from Spanish by Thomas Bunstead) - review by Daniel Marc Janes

Daniel Marc Janes

Waste Man

The Things We’ve Seen


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The reader of Agustín Fernández Mallo has to put up with a lot of rubbish. He is the WALL-E of Spanish literature: hoarder of found objects; assembler of shards. In Book I of his latest novel, The Things We’ve Seen, the unnamed narrator sits on a bench overlooking Manhattan’s East River, commenting to his friend on the way discarded objects are swallowed by the water and instantly replaced by others that are spat up. Immediately, in one of the delirious digressions that are Mallo’s stock in trade, an old man materialises from nowhere, sporting a pinstriped suit, a waxed moustache and a pronounced resemblance to Salvador Dalí. ‘It all boils down to trash,’ he says, ‘blessed trash.’ Taking his place on the bench unsolicited, he launches into a twenty-six-page rhapsody on waste:

Everything useful we know about former civilizations is that which they left behind unintentionally, that which was accidentally dropped and forgotten about, the things they threw away and never bothered to gather or recycle, that’s to say, their trash … We’re at war, believe me, we’re at war, it’s the

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