NOT YET PUBLISHED
Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell
256 pages, 5.5 x 8.5” trade paperback
Publication: November 16, 2021
Tomás Ugarte, an advertising executive in Santiago, Chile, is grappling with a midlife crisis—turning forty, quitting his job and in the midst of a divorce—when he begins to experience inexplicable episodes of amnesia. Hoping to outrace this dilemma, he plans to travel abroad for a year and chart the second half of his life. Instead, he will journey into an unexpected, and very foreign territory, one where the boundary between the self and the other becomes dangerously interchangeable. Much like the works of Auster and Murakami, The Transentients defies easy categorization: it is a genuinely disturbing psychological novel that borders on the uncanny. A bewitching puzzle-box with a propulsive plot, as well as a high-wire act of prose, at its core lies a metaphysical mystery that ensnares both the protagonist and the reader. Stretching from the streets of Santiago onto a treacherous escarpment in the Chilean Andes and to the hills of Valparaiso, and then careening out into the vast beckoning of the Atacama desert, The Transentients traverses the porousness of reality . . . and the malleability of consciousness.
Upon its publication in Spanish, Carlos Fuentes called this novel one of the essential Latin American works of the new century. Now at last The Transentients is available to an English-speaking audience, thanks in no small part to Jessica Powell’s especially fine translation.
“The protagonist…suffers lapses of amnesia. But his mental gaps are filled with powerful experiences. Ugarte is transmigrated to the body of a drunken beggar who shuffles near a plaza. Or he is caught, with another climber, in the middle of a snow storm in the high mountains. Or you see 'inside' a screenwriter writing a script commissioned by a mysteriously missing producer. During these successive splits, Ugarte continues to be himself, despite living in the shoes of others. . . . Fortunately, neither Ugarte nor his author surrender to esotericism: those other lives are too sharp to be hallucinated and too imbricated with the "real" to be supernatural. . . . [Missana's] exact and detailed prose, and the steady hand that never loses the thread of a complex plot, are among the author's great achievements. But the greatest is that … as we read we fall into a cascade of reflected consciousness. . . . A metaphor for the mystery of reading, The Transentients erases the border between what is lived and what is vivid.”—Carlos Franz, El Mercurio (2014)
Sergio Missana (b.1966) is a Chilean novelist, journalist, scholar, editor, scriptwriter and environmental advocate. He is a professor of Latin American literature at the Stanford University Overseas Studies Program in Santiago, Chile, and Executive Director of the Climate Parliament, an environmental NGO.
Missana is the author of seven novels in Spanish, and has published a critical study, La máquina de pensar de Borges (Borges' Thinking Machine), based on his PhD dissertation at Stanford University, in 2003; and a collection of essays, La distracción (Distraction) in 2015. Other works published in Spanish include a collection of travel pieces in collaboration with photographer Ramsay Turnbull; and, with his two daughters, five children's books. Sergio Missana lives with his wife and children in Connecticut.
Jessica Powell has published translations of literary works by a wide variety of Latin American writers, including Antonio Benítez Rojo's novel Woman in Battle Dress (2015), which was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Translation. Other translations include Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya (2016); Pablo Neruda’s book-length poem, venture of the infinite man (2017); Edna Iturralde’s Green Was my Forest (2018); Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo’s Where There’s Love, There’s Hate (2013) and Silvina Ocampo’s The Promise (2019), both co-translated with Suzanne Jill Levine. Jessica Powell received her BA in International Studies from Vassar College, her MA in Latin American Studies from Stanford University, and completed her Ph.D. in UCSB’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese. She lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, Abraham Powell, and their two children, Olivia and Leo.