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Desolation Island by Adolfo Garcia Ortega

Desolation Island

by Adolfo Garcia Ortega

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One man narrates his quest about an obsession with Desolation Island in the Straits of Magellan

"What a cruel scenario of clouds and coasts that threaten and promise so much, Griffin suddenly exclaimed, raising his glass and standing up in front of me, offering a macabre toast. I drink to you, scenario of so much desire and disappointment, he said, of so much drama and bliss, of suffering, torments, scares, rescues, voyages, I drink to you, shipwrecks, struggles, loves, massacres, revolts, I drink to you, whims, hopes, spoils, glimpses, plans, strategies, misfortunes, loneliness, yes, a toast to you, accursed, fascinating place."

In Maderia our narrator meets a man called Griffin and spends many days listening to his story of his obsession with the Desolation Island of the title and his quest to reach there inspired by a photograph of his grandparents embracing a strange automaton which now resides in the Punta Arenas museum. Along the way there are many, oh so many, digressions and tangents of stories within stories, biographies within biographies and the sometimes bizarre history of the tip of South America. Bringing in notable fiuctions, such as moby dick and a host of characters both real and imagined including some famous and some not so famous who are all roped into a rambling meandering story. The strength or weakness of the book depending on your view is that it covers so much and spends so long getting to the point of Griffin's story as to his journey and his arrival and what happens when he finally reaches his long dreamt of destination however that would have been a much shorter poorer novel than the rich tapestry of tall tales we have here.

Overall - possibly a frustrating read (if you want straight narrative) but very rewarding ( )
  psutto | Dec 14, 2011 |
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As the 20th century draws to a close, a container ship heads for Punta Arenas, on the Straits of Magellan at Chile's southern tip. On board is Oliver Griffin, a Spaniard of Irish origin obsessed with invisibility. In the city's museum, Griffin seeks out the automaton he has seen his grandparents embracing in a honeymoon photograph. This fearsome metal warrior is a sixteenth-century robot, a relic of a proposed mechanical army, commissioned by Philip II of Spain to guard the strait against the English. The automaton was discovered on Desolation Island by a grieving woman scouring the archipelago for the bodies of her shipwrecked husband and son. Spanning four full centuries of adventure, 'Desolation Island' is a classic seafaring tale, striking at the heart of that eternal mystery: our obsession with the sea, as terrible as it is irresistible.… (more)

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