Cover image for Chromos
Alfau, Felipe, 1902-1999.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Elmwood Park, IL, USA : Dalkey Archive Press, [1990]

Physical Description:
348 pages ; 24 cm
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A controversial finalist for the National Book Award in 1990, Chromos is one of the true masterpieces of post-World War II fiction. Written in the 1940s but left unpublished until 1990, Chromos anticipated the fictional inventiveness of the writers who were to come along--Barth, Coover, Pynchon, Sorrentino, and Gaddis.On one level, Chromos is the American immigration novel par excellence. Its opening line is: "The moment one learns English, complications set in." Or, as the novel illustrates, the moment one comes to America, the complications set in. The cast of characters in this book are immigrants from Spain who have one leg in Spanish culture and the other in the confusing, warped, unfriendly New World of New York City, attempting to meld the two worlds that just won't fit together.While wildly comic and populated with some of the most bizarre characters, Chromos is also strangely apocalyptic, moving towards point zero and utter darkness.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Felipe Alfau's witty and disorienting novel Locos, first published in 1936, was reprinted last year to considerable critical acclaim. Chromos--written in the 1940s but never published--is, similarly, a novel of teasing satire and disdainful erudition, which mocks novelistic conventions and sentimental attitudes while following the lives of expatriot "Americaniards"--Spaniards living in New York. The most hair-raising crimes and the most insubstantial social attitudes mingle, giving rise to metaphysics and wordplay. Alfau is a self-mocking formalist whose images verge on the magical. Of one character he writes, "Her tears seemed to be the same tears she had borne before . . . old, aged tears crystallized like diamonds by the action of time and pain." An experimental novel that is (was), in fact, a forerunner of the work of Pynchon, Barthelme, and others. --Penelope Mesic

Publisher's Weekly Review

Written in the 1940s, this second and only other novel by the author of Locos is a surreal set of stories within stories about colorful Spanish exiles living in New York City. (June)no PW review (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This kaleidoscopic novel was written in 1948 and is here offered in English for the first time after the recent reissue of the same author's Locos ( LJ 2/1/89). The focus is on a group of ``Americaniards,'' Spaniards residing in New York City who, although healthy back home, have become hypochondriacal and readily indulge in delusions of mediocrity. Typical is the writer Garcia, who is adept at loitering in a city remarkable for its absence of cafe life and who sells to lesser Latin American reviews an article invariably about New York, a short story invariably about Spain, or a poem invariably about himself. With the hapless narrator, Garcia shares long segments of his deliberately corny novel about a merchant family of Madrid whose third-generation males fall prey to sexual perversions. Richly aphoristic, with titillating digressions into mathematics and metaphysics and with many Spanish words left untranslated, this book represents intellectual fiction at its best.-- Jack Shreve, Allegany Community Coll., Cumberland, Md. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Chromos, Alfau's second novel, was written in English in the 1940s, but it languished unpublished until now, its appearance following by about two years that of his first, Locos: A Comedy of Gestures (1988), also published by Dalkey Archive. Here, Alfau displays a series of pictures, or chromos as he calls them, that depict the life of the expatriate Iberian Spanish community of New York City. The novel is a collection of stories within stories, something of an extended shaggy-dog tale, that the unnamed narrator strings together through his ability to read the minds and the manuscripts of his fellow Americaniards. To him, an expatriate writing in a foreign language, it soon becomes clear that, even though he cannot perceive a clearcut logic to the intricacies of existence, still it is possible to outline the texture or the emotional quadrants of the lives of this second wave of Spanish conquistadors. Though this novel does have its longueurs, it is well worth pushing on through. Alfau is attempting to describe an ethos that he feels is falling through the cracks of national identity, and, as he says ironically on the first page, "The moment one learns English, complications set in." Appropriate for fiction collections in academic and public libraries. -M. H. Begnal, Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus