Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: February 1, 2022
by Antonio di Benedetto, translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen, introduction by Juan José Saer
An NYRB Classics Original
January 2022 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club
The Silentiary takes place in a nameless Latin American city during the early 1950s. A young man employed in middle management entertains an ambition to write a book of some sort. But first he must establish the necessary precondition, which the crowded and noisily industrialized city always denies him, however often he and his mother and wife move in search of it. He thinks of embarking on his writing career with something simple, a detective novel, and ponders the possibility of choosing a victim among the people he knows and planning a crime as if he himself were the killer. That way, he hopes, his book might finally begin to take shape.
The Silentiary, along with Zama and The Suicides, is one of the three thematically linked novels by Di Benedetto that have come to be known as the Trilogy of Expectation, after the dedication “To the victims of expectation” in Zama. Together they constitute, in Juan José Saer’s words, “one of the culminating moments of twentieth-century narrative fiction in Spanish.”
[Antonio di Benedetto’s] hero’s existential predicament might recall Kafka or Dostoevsky, albeit on a lighter scale. [The Silentiary] develops in spare, careful prose and sustains a thread of dry humor. . . A strange, amusing novel.
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Di Benedetto writes in sharp, modern, deceptively simple prose . . . he was a bridge between Jorge Luis Borges, with his mental labyrinths, and Roberto Bolaño, a peripatetic Chilean whose work explored both the condition of the writer and chronic violence in Latin America.
—Michael Reid, The Economist
[The Silentiary] calls to mind Kafka’s pregnantly indecipherable novels, but Di Benedetto fills out his quasi-allegorical premise with so many dingy particulars that his narrator seems to experience his universal problem, in what may be the universal way, as a private shame and defeat.
—Benjamin Kunkel, The New Yorker