I’ve just finished The Athenian Murders by Jose Carlos Somoza. I’d read a review in The Guardian which compared it to The Name of the Rose which is my favourite novel (currently read it 9 times) so I went out and bought it straight away. It was difficult to get into to begin with, so it remained on my bedside for a year before I bit the bullet and took it with me on a mini break to Dorset.
The story is interesting enough, but the really noodle-baking aspect is the dual story being told by the translator in the story who is working on an original Greek text and who produces the English text we read above. In English, I suspect that it has a greater effect, since the book was originally written in Spanish, so we’re reading a translation of a book which is about a translator and a text. As a result, it took me a few pages to work out that the translator referred to is a character, not a note from the actual translator of the English version.
As the story progresses, the translator’s notes become more involved leading to a novel way of reading; the flow of the Greek translation is broken by reading the notes. In some chapters, I read the footnote immediately; in others, I read the translation then went back and read the notes. It didn’t feel gimmicky though and led to an enthralling read, which it goes without saying I couldn’t put down*. There were plenty of gasps of surprise, and it’s a very good whodunnit too, not to mention whydunnit and whatthefucksgoingonandwhatsactuallybeenduninthefirstplace. Recommended.
* – Admittedly, Dorset seems a good place to get lost in a book, since rival distractions on Portland were few and far between.