El sistema del tacto
Alejandra Costamagna

NOVEL | 2018 | 192 pages

2018 HERRALDE NOVEL PRIZE FINALIST

Ania, the novel’s protagonist, receives a request from her father: to attend her uncle Agustín’s final farewell in representation of his side of the family. In order to fulfill her father’s wish, she will undertake a 1,500-kilometer journey across the Andes, that will also be an escape from the present and a visit to the vague borders of memory. Through an array of episodes and temporalities ranging from the 1970s to the first decades of the 21st century, with leaps to an even older past, the characters of El sistema del tacto, experiment the agony of their family roots and the feeling of being foreigners in the places they inhabit. But it is not only about geographic territories, but also about families, affections and languages they must share.

Ania and Agustín are linked by a truncated genealogy and they are distorted images of each other through a sort of involuntary mirror: Ania and her father are increasingly distant in their Chilean-Argentinian foreignness; Agustín and his mother—the omnipresent Nélida—whose mind is being invaded by a poor memory and the historical trauma of her Piedmontese roots—that Italian region made of immigrants for whom Argentina was a land of promise. 

El sistema del tacto is a novel about alienation and belonging, about two countries separated by a mountain, about a family, absences, memories and words, like the ones uncle Agustín types in his typewriting notebooks, or like the ones Ania, who is fascinated by typos, collects from her classes as school teacher. The story unfolds through a dual narrative in which other complementary texts appear: entries from an old encyclopedia, horror novels rescued from the rubble, migrant behavior manuals, typing dictations that seem to have been taken down with anger, half-faded photos, letters from one continent to the other and dozens of scattered files.

El sistema del tacto deals with the search for identity and its unavoidable dissolution with a very delicate style, evanescent, as if told in whispers, that dazzles without the need to raise the voice. This is a work  that confirms Alejandra Costamagna as one of the most powerful and subtle writers in contemporary Latin American literature. 

RIGHTS: spanish  ANAGRAMA

Alejandra Costamagna has positioned herself as one of the most representative writers of Latin American literature .
— Samanta Hernández Escobar, Gatopardo
A mandatory reference in contemporary Chilean—one might say even Latin American—literature … a literary voice that invites us to revisit our own lives with a new look.
— Salomé Cohen, El Espectador
Alejandra Costamagna has consolidated as one of the most interesting voices in Latin American literature.
— Herson Barona, Letras Libres
Alejandra Costamagna’s characters embody that semblance of truth that provoke that famous and pleasant confusion; the genuine miracle of literature: what happens when life seems to be inside of the book; when the characters seem so real that for a long and valuable second we become, along with the book that is in our hands, less real.
— Alejandro Zambra
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BY ALEJANDRA COSTAMAGNA: Imposible salir de la Tierra STORIES, 2016 Había una vez un pájaro STORIES, 2013 Cruce de peatones JOURNALISM, 2012 Animales domésticos STORIES, 2011 Naturalezas muertas NOVELLA, 2010 Dile que no estoy NOVEL, 2007 Últimos fuegos STORIES, 2005 Cansada ya del sol NOVEL, 2002 Malas noches STORIES, 2000 Ciudadano en retiro NOVEL, 1998 En voz baja NOVEL, 1996