I have a background in the humanities and a career at the intersection of public policy and the social sciences.
I like to believe I can make more sense of it than most. I mean that my view of the world, from top to bottom, from my self-hating relationship with Facebook to my need to pre-emptively acknowledge my advantages, is primarily conditioned by my personal investment in the liberal arts. I know it would be somewhat different if I were an immigrant, or gender fluid, or a welfare claimant, and I often guess at the ways in which it would alter under altered circumstances.
But what if I were to extract the liberal arts from my life, root and branch, and exchange that part of my background for a fluency in the sciences? What does the zeitgeist look like to a person whose orientation towards the world is informed by science rather than the arts? Not a person with a slightly different mixture of scientific and artistic awareness, not someone who dabbles fairly in both fields. What does the zeitgeist look like to someone for whom the latest discoveries of science compound into the very bedrock of a worldview?
Forget about social media, data harvesting, wearable tech and the like.
Think quantum physics, dark matter, spooky action, string theory. And how would a novel be inclined to behave — what strange form would it be likely to take — if one were to seek to capture in its pages this alternative conception of the now? Forgive me the unwieldy preface, but I can think of no other way to begin reckoning with the sheer oddity of Nocilla Lab. In fact, Nocilla Lab is doubly odd because it enacts a decisive break with the form of both Nocilla Dream and Nocilla Experience while also supplying them with a coherent ending of the sort they seemed poised to lack.
To discuss the novel, it helps to know something about the author, his methods, and his attitude towards his work. By reputation, prior to publishing Nocilla Dream in Spanish in , he was a poet with three collections to his name. Nocilla Dream and Nocilla Experience share a similar design.
Both are composed of very short chapters, a couple of pages in length, which depict disconnected episodes in a selection of loosely related narratives. At the centre of Nocilla Dream is a lone tree in the Nevada desert, bedecked with dozens of pairs of shoes like a piece of avant-garde art.
The Generation Nocilla and the De-Politicization of the Postmodern Spanish Novel
Nocilla Experience adopts much the same form — short chapters, no overarching narrative, quotations, pastiche — although it is more conspicuously decentred, lacking a unifying image or concept such as the tree of shoes. Collage is the driving force of these two books, the basis of their shared aesthetic. They are made of a combination of original materials and materials found, salvaged, repurposed. Each shred is thrown at a canvas and pressed down amongst the others, giving rise to a cacophony that requires active input from the reader to discern, decipher, and sometimes speculate on the meanings of their interrelationships.
Each is like a node in a vast network whose connective fibres must be laid anew, and in different ways, by every person who picks up either one of the novels. When I read Nocilla Dream and Nocilla Experience about a year ago, I thought they did an inventive job of capturing the zeitgeist as I already understood it.
Kaleidoscopic Vision: On Translating Agustín Fernández Mallo
In their haphazard flashes of action, in their fondness for fragmented mash-ups, in the brevity of their scenes and the cross-cutting of rapidly proliferating storylines, their form, I thought, reflected the whirlwind of life today: distractive, ephemeral, and all the rest. But I see now that I was still reading the novels through the lens of my liberal arts worldview.
Nocilla Lab seized that lens and smashed it. The third volume of the trilogy also plays with collage and fragmentation and mash-ups, albeit in different ways to the first two and with different effects. It also does away with the dozens of short chapters, instead breaking down into four distinct parts. It opens with a single run-on sentence, seventy pages in length. It makes for an impressive demonstration of linguistic dexterity. At first I flailed about, not knowing what to make of its break with the established aesthetic of the Nocilla Project.
Only when I reached its second section did something begin to cohere, something that delivered me back to its opening pages and chipped away at the worldview I brought to bear on it. Could there be a more strident rejection of the liberal arts worldview? Theology, philosophy, and literature all recognise, on principle, the thorny particularities of individual lives, and attempt to relate them to supposedly universal truths or other absolutist concepts.
Law and policy originate from the same place, acknowledging at least the distinctive rather than general features of a given person, and history and sociology and contiguous disciplines would be nothing without the presupposition — which is fundamentally an ethical one — that we must conduct our affairs on the basis of a willingness to distinguish between particular cases, to accommodate and account for manifold points of divergence.
But Nocilla Lab kicks off with the articulation of an opposing worldview that resonated strongly with the meme I saw in my Facebook feed. This novel was selected by the magazine 'Quimera' as the best novel of the year, by 'El Cultural de El Mundo' as one of the top ten novels, and in , it was chosen by the critics at 'Quimera' as the fourth most important novel of the decade in the Spanish language.
Nocilla Dream was followed by Nocilla Experience in which was again selected for many prizes. It was chosen as the best book of the year by Miradas 2, TVE, and the Pop-Eye Prize in for the best book of the year, as well being nominated in the categories for the Music Prize and the Independent Creation Prize. In stock online Not available in stores. He is given a job at the prestigious Beira Verde Clinic in Galicia, near the Portuguese border, and handed a patient, Laura Novo, who is capable only of writing….
Nocilla Dream by Agustin Fernandez Mallo. Paperback French. Ships within weeks Not available in stores. Nocilla lab by Agustin Fernandez Mallo. Paperback Spanish. Out of stock online Not available in stores. Un certero relato del arte de crear, de escribir, de imaginar. Hardcover Spanish. Hardcover sold out. Clara Soutelo is a sixteen-year-old girl who spends her summers in the town of Vilarelle in Galicia. She descends from a well-to-do family that was on the winning side in Spain's Civil War and that occupies the manor house in Vilarelle.
All the local families…. Epigenomics in Health and Disease discusses the next generation sequencing technologies shaping our current knowledge with regards to the role of epigenetics in normal development, aging, and disease. It includes the consequences for diagnostics, prognostics, and…. Lovecraft at the start of his essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature".
In real life, the author…. Dans les avions, l'horizon n'existe pas by Agustin Fernandez Mallo.