Solitaire of Love, an achingly lyrical novel by internationally acclaimed Latin American writer Cristina Peri Rossi, explores the sense of emotional exile that sexual passion can evoke. Only the fourth book of Peri Rossi’s to be translated into English—the others are The Ship of Fools, A Forbidden Passion, and Dostoevsky’s Last Night—Solitaire of Love showcases the mesmerizingly rhythmic language that has become the trademark of this award-winning and prolific author of novels, essay collections, poetry, and short stories.
Tracing the course of a relationship as it evolves into uncompromising self-destruction, the narrator of Solitaire of Love becomes addicted to his own passion and to the body of his beloved. Erotic, romantic love becomes bewitchment, producing a heightened state where time is measured in the rhythms of a chosen body and pride becomes subservient to obsession. The specifics of this other body trump any claim to ordinary existence for the narrator, as sex becomes a kind of idolatrous slavery and love becomes a mechanism for self-immolation. As in Peri Rossi’s other works, an ambiguous sense of gender and sexuality arise from her uniquely experimental prose and mystically erotic logic. Language is subsumed into this process as a way to bear witness, to transfix and capture the love object. The limbo of obsession, as described by Peri Rossi, creates an infantilizing brand of loneliness, broken by flashes of joy, insight, fury, and fear.
This novel was originally published in Spanish in 1988.
The Uruguayan-born author of 20 novels (Dostoevsky's Last Night; A Forbidden Passion) offers a slim but intellectually rigorous meditation on the slippery, often illusory nature of love and the ways in which lovers alienate each other through words, sex and obsession. Peri Rossi shows how desire can at once marginalize, destroy and construct a sense of identity, using the vehicle of an affair between her unnamed male narrator and his beloved, Aida. Consumed by passion, the narrator becomes isolated from society and reality and is facing a self-destruction he seemingly craves. At the same time, it is his relationship with Aida that gives him an identity, as her body becomes the only thing he understands as real, though he projects so many unbalanced fantasies onto this body that he effectively reimagines Aida as an impossibility. He tries to create an inner paradise by imagining himself as Aida's unborn child; other times, he wants to be her husband, her worshiper, her possessor. The story unfolds in a fluid, nonlinear, poetic fashion, and Peri Rossi magnificently combines intense sexual imagery with a lucid and enigmatic philosophy of erotic love. The nature of language, especially the inadequacy of language to express sexuality, is also cleverly examined throughout: words are repeated and meanings explained so often that they lose their effect and intent as surely as the narrator loses his identity. This hyperintelligent language play may alienate readers unfamiliar with the novel's underpinnings of psychoanalytic theory, but those who enjoy the intellectual and sensual pleasures of Duras or Kundera will appreciate this treatment of alienation, sexuality and power.