Book Discovery: From the Shadows by Juan José Millás
“[From the Shadows is] about alienation, loneliness, voyeurism, and the power of fantasy to transform claustrophobic, humdrum lives. Written by one of Spain’s most original and important authors and set in contemporary Madrid . . . [it] pays tribute to a very Spanish tradition, embodied by, among others, surrealists like Luis Buñuel [whose] 1962 film, The Exterminating Angel, [is] another claustrophobic allegory that turns middle-class comfort into a desert island.”
This is the story
Laid off from his job, Damián Lobo obsessively imagines himself as a celebrity being interviewed on TV. After committing an act of petty theft at an antiques market, he finds himself trapped inside a wardrobe and delivered to the seemingly idyllic home of a husband, wife, and their internet-addicted teenage daughter. There, he sneaks from the shadows to serve as an invisible butler, becoming deeply and disastrously involved with his unknowing host family. Every thread of the plot is ingeniously tied together, creating a potent admixture of parable, love story, and thriller. Millás masterfully reveals the everyday as innately surreal as he renders the unbelievable tangible and the trivial fantastical, and full of dark humor.
Reviews and What Readers Say
“ A compelling stew of comedy, philosophy, and even tragedy, From the Shadows maintains a light touch, even as sinister undertones bubble underneath.”
“ Spectacularly bizarre. . . . A Kafkaesque story about transformation and our collective human desire to connect with one another."
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Juan José Millás is the recipient of Spain’s most prestigious literary prizes: the Premio Nadal, Premio Planeta, and Premio Nacional de Narrativa. A regular contributor to El País, Millás has also won many awards for his journalism. He is the author of several short story collections and works of nonfiction as well as over a dozen novels, including From the Shadows, the first of his novels to be published in North America. He lives in Madrid.
Thomas Bunstead is a writer and translator of leading Spanish-language writers, including Eduardo Halfon, Agustín Fernández Mallo, Juan José Millás, and Juan Villoro. His co-translation of Enrique Vila-Matas’s A Brief History of Portable Literature was a semifinalist for the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute Translation Prize. He also writes for the Times Literary Supplement and Paris Review Daily and is an editor of the literary translation journal In Other Words. He lives in Lewes, England.
Daniel Hahn is a writer, editor, and translator with some fifty books to his name, including novels by José Eduardo Agualusa, Eduardo Halfon, and Juan José Millás. His translations from Portuguese, Spanish, and French include fiction from Europe, Africa, and the Americas and nonfiction by writers ranging from Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago to Brazilian footballer Pelé. He is also the editor of the new Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature. He lives in Lewes, England.