Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Lost Luggage"

Jordi Punti is a writer, translator, and a regular contributor to the Spanish and Catalan press. Punti is considered one of the most promising new voices of contemporary Catalan literature. In 1998 he published his first book of short stories, Pell d’armadillo (Proa, 1998) that won the Serra d’Or Critics’ Prize.

Punti applied the Page 69 Test to Lost Luggage, his first novel, and reported the following:
Here's the text you'll find on page 69 of Lost Luggage:
It seems that the gentleman from Logroño was a great lover of taxidermy. Every Friday afternoon he went off, like an explorer setting out on a hunt, to pay a visit to the taxidermist’s that used to be in the Plaça Reial. He gazed and gazed again upon the exhibited items and, from time to time, when one of them stole his heart, spent some money and brought it home. Senyora Rifà tended to receive the new acquisition with a wrinkling of her nose—“dust and more dust,” she said to herself—but immediately set about looking for somewhere to put it. She saw each new adoption as a sign of permanence. As long as the animals were there, she reasoned—and it wasn’t as if they were going to be escaping all by themselves some fine day—it would never occur to the gentleman from Logroño to leave her.

She was wrong, of course.

She was wrong because on her return from the market one September morning, that time of day when the house was empty and she listened to the serial on Radio Barcelona while she was cooking lunch, she found a folded piece of paper on the dining-room table. The gentleman from Logroño informed her, with immoderate stylistic flourishes, that he’d been obliged to hasten back to his home town. His two daughters, together and in concert, had attempted suicide. He’d write with further news as soon as he could. Lots of kisses, et cetera. Senyora Natàlia Rifà shuddered at the situation and felt sorry for the man. She then noticed the reek of Dandy Male and realized that the paper she was holding in her hands was perfumed. What a strange thing. Who would perfume such a sorrowful note unless he was soliciting forgiveness for something? She rushed to the room that the gentleman from Logroño still rented in order to keep up appearances and flung open his wardrobe. Empty. Fearing she was going to faint, senyora Rifà flopped onto the bed. Immobile on top of a chest of drawers, a ferret mocked its landlady with a scornful leer.

In the first few weeks, senyora Natàlia Rifà pinned her hopes on the stuffed zoo, but her longing for a letter postmarked Logroño gradually dwindled away to nothing. One evening at dinnertime, after two months of resisting renting out the man’s room, she realized that looks of compassion were being exchanged between her lodgers.
Lost Luggage is a story told by Christopher, Christof, Cristòfol and Christophe --four half-brothers, sons of the same father and four very different mothers. They live in Frankfurt, Paris, London and Barcelona and they unwittingly share the fact that their father, Gabriel de la Cruz, abandoned them when they were little and they never heard of him again. The novel begins when Gabriel is officially considered a missing person and the police contact the Christophers. As they come together for the first time, they start to tell by turns all what they know about their father, looking for some clues in the past. Gabriel was a truck driver who in the 60's and 70's traveled around Europe moving furniture with two colleagues. As the story unfolds, we discover a man who during thirty years of driving was able to escape the darkness of Franco dictator's Spain and to explore a luminous Europe --a long journey full of emotions, funny situations, families left behind and some capital decisions that account for a whole life. As a novel built through many perspectives, Lost Luggage takes pleasure in the art of storytelling. On page 69, we find the story of Natàlia Rifà, the owner of the guest house where Gabriel goes to live as a teenager, after he leaves the orphanage where he grew up. On the same day that Gabriel takes a room into the guest house, we learn the story of Senyora Rifà, a spinster that fell in love with a visiting gentleman who stayed in the boarding house. That man had a thing for taxidermy and little by little put a stuffed animal in every room of the guest house. She accepted it as a sign of love, but one day the man leaves her alone with the quiet zoo. Gabriel is accepted and he gets "the Ferret room."
Learn more about Lost Luggage at the publisher's website.

Writers Read: Jordi Punti.

--Marshal Zeringue