A review of Francisco Rebolledo's Rasero
We live in an age when information is often prized over knowledge, high-tech weaponry and toxic chemicals are destroying the earth, and the culture of reality, because it seems more relevant to us than literature, has usurped the culture of storytelling. This, at any rate, is the thesis of Rasero, a mature first novel by Mexican author Francisco Rebolledo. A roman fleuve descendent from such distinguished forebears as Tolstoi, Dickens or James, Rasero almost seems an anachronism in form, yet it is fundamentally subversive because it challenges our notion of history.
Rebolledo, a former teacher of science and chemistry at Mexico City's National Autonomous University, cleverly juxtaposes Reality versus Truth by showing the reader that interpretation is everything.
First published in Mexico in 1993, Rasero was chosen out of 427 entries from seven Latin American countries for last year's Pegasus Prize. It appears in an excellent English translation by Helen R. Lane. Ms. Lane has previously done justice to such long narratives as Roa Bastos's I, the Supreme and Vargas Llosa's The War of the End of the World.
The eponymous hero, Fausto Rasero, is an 18th-century Andalusian who has the unusual distinction of having known many of the key figures of the Enlightenment. A resident of Paris throughout much of the book, Rasero hobnobs with Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau and philosopher David Hume. He befriends the great chemist Antoine Lavoisier, who discovered oxygen and formulated the modern chemical dictum, "Nothing is lost, nothing is created." Rasero even loans a young Mozart his piano.
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