Thursday, 11 February 2010

Waiting for Columbus

"Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can't see what's round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend"

- Bruce Cockburn

Set in contemporary Spain, in the town of Seville, the plot follows the story of an anonymous stranger. Found semi naked and unconscious in the treacherous Strait of Gibraltar, he is taken to a local insane asylum where he claims to be Christopher Columbus. Yes, the 15th century explorer…

Here he attracts the attention of Nurse Consuela, who slowly begins to unravel his mystery as he tells her stories about his life. The deeper she involves herself in Columbus, she realises her professional concern is becoming muddied with personal feelings as she slowly becomes more entangled in the surreal narrative that Columbus weaves around them. As his story develops, Consuela starts to piece together the true reasons for Columbus’s break with reality and the horror he is running from.

Simultaneously, a young Interpol officer, Emile Germain, is searching Europe for a missing man, following a trail that eventually leads him to Seville, and to Columbus.

Trofimuk captured me from the first. He holds the readers attention effortlessly as he takes you from modern day Spain, to the 15th century/ dream-like state that Columbus inhabits. The surreal quality of these ‘reminisces’ is worn lightly, Trofimuk is never heavy handed with his hints about Columbus’s past life. Instead they are intensely sensual and evocative. (Trofimuk’s descriptions of wine and food are sublime…) Half way in and I think I was almost as in love with Columbus as Consuela. And this is, ultimately, a book about love. All-consuming, passionate, deep, scarring love in all of its complicated glory.

As the book draws near to the end, I felt I was dreading it with Columbus. As his stories become more fractured and real life (mine and his!) starts to interrupt, the truth is slowly pulled out.

I finished Waiting for Columbus in tears. I loved it.

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