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In this latest novel from the award-winning author of The Polyglot Lovers, a writer searching for inspiration in Spain goes on a darkly comic, delightfully absurd journey through an underground society.
Awarded a three-month stipend to travel and work, a Swedish writer flies to Madrid, where in a bar she meets a man with an extraordinary story to tell. In exchange for somewhere to sleep and to hide out for a few days, he is willing to tell her the whole astonishing tale. What follows is an account of fantastic proportions and ingredients: the existence of a shadowy Internet TV show with a certain morality clause, a threat to the storyteller’s life, a diabolical nun, and the story of a girl with a missing left thumb. The tale is also the precursor to a meeting between the writer and the infernal miracle worker, Lucia—a meeting that ultimately forces the writer to make a fateful decision about her own inner essence.
Carnality is a novel about the universal need for spirituality and truth—not to mention a good story—set in the seemingly unspiritual grimy underbelly of society.
Wolff's spellbinding latest (after The Polyglot Lovers) blends mystery and melodrama with a meditation on morality and the power of storytelling. Swedish writer Bennedith travels to Madrid on a summer work stipend, and, unsure of what to do with herself when she arrives in the sweltering capital, she volunteers as caretaker for a man with advancing Alzheimer's. One night, she falls into conversation with a nervous man, Mercuro, in a neighborhood bar. He teases out details of his recent life story, and his stranger-than-fiction saga has it all: lost love, terminal illness, and a vicious nun named Lucia whom he claims ruined his life, all tied together via a blockchain-backed underground reality TV show called Carnality. But Mercuro will only give the full story to Bennedith if she provides him with a place to stay in return. After she agrees and he moves into her flat, she gets romantically involved with Mercuro and develops an intense correspondence with Lucia, who approves of Bennedith's volunteer work but warns her about Mercuro. Wolff poses fascinating questions about the nature of morality and attachment throughout the propulsive narrative, making for a triumph of ingenuity. Readers won't want this to end.