The Scale of Maps
Translated by Mark Schafer
"The Scale of Maps is a meditative, obsessive novel, rewarding in the clarity of its expression and the provocation of its questions. As the end of the novel makes clear, it is the posing of those questions--the journey--that is most important."
"A geographer falls irredeemably in love with a flighty mapmaker in this graceful, peculiar Spanish tale. Sergio Prim, at 39 a self-described 'small man' set in his bachelor ways, has begun an affair with a woman nine years his junior, Brezo Varela, whose vitality and passion for Sergio astonish him and wreak havoc on his orderly life. Being loved so fiercely by Brezo has disoriented him, and the narrative moves between the third and first person, depending on Sergio's increasingly unstable state. His instinct is to slip away and find his 'hollow,' a sanctuary safe from intrusion, 'unencumbered by worry and marked by an intimate and benign invisibility.' He takes off, ostensibly to do research in the mountains of Cuenca, and is haunted by thoughts of Brezo, even seeking the advice of a psychologist, while Brezo, wary of his absence, takes up with a Basque jai alai player. Gopegui's work is beautifully composed and elegantly translated, though Sergio's fundamental elusiveness leaves the reader empty-handed and lovelorn, which, depending on the reader, will be a disappointment or a stroke of brilliance."
"It's an ambitious novel, to be sure, made beautiful by Gopegui’s liquid prose, and made accessible by her ultimate refusal to answer her own questions." --Janet Potter, Bookslut
Words without Borders
"'Trembling' is how protagonist Sergio Prim first appears to the reader. 'His hands fluttered like a bashful magician's,' the Spaniard Belen Gopegui writes of her fictional creation. Gopegui’s first novel, The Scale of Maps, is a story about a magic trick that Prim never quite masters, an ambitious disappearing act that ends in irredeemable failure. After all, as another character, the enchanting mapmaker Brezo Varela, warns Prim, 'the problem with escape artists is that they never escape.'
". . . Who is this strange man charting a fantastical, solitary course? Gopegui has been compared to Cervantes and Nabokov, and it’s easy to see Prim as a kind of windmill-battling Pnin. Prim’s labyrinthine imaginings could easily place him in a work of Borges as well.
". . . Mark Schafer’s agile translation gives Prim the fitting voice of a polished academic who has lost his bearings. 'The man who examines his own love is like the merchant who sells perishable foods,' Prim suggests inscrutably. Is the reader to understand that Prim’s survival depends on his ability to shill the ripened fruits of his passion before they spoil? And to whom is he selling the harvest of his inspection? It’s just one of many alluring metaphors that quietly collapse upon inspection, evading scrutiny."
Kansas City Star
"Map scales are about relationships. So is "The Scale of Maps," a poignant, provocative, profound and passionate book by respected Spanish writer Belén Gopegui."