x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The Spies: a funny, madcap tale of a writer-turned-spy

In Luis Fernando Verissimo's enjoyable novel, a man who works for a publishing house becomes intrigued with the story on which a manuscript is based and decides there is a damsel in distress in a small town who needs to be rescued.

The Spies
Luis Fernando Verissimo
MacLehose Press

In an increasingly crazy world, it's oddly comforting to know that there are people all over the globe who are just as nuts as you.

And what a joyful, spirited and funny tale this short Brazilian novel is.

A frustrated writer works for a very small publisher, basically to write rejection letters to those who send in manuscripts. At weekends, he vents his frustrations by getting drunk with a small coterie of fellow ne'er-do-wells.

But something intrigues him about one manuscript, which purports to be the story of a sadly put-upon young woman in a small agricultural town in the interior.

He confides in his bar cronies, one of whom has a little knowledge of said town. They decide to send in a couple of spies to see what is happening, and rescue the damsel in distress.

Of course, none of this is as it really seems and, as the plot unfolds, it begins to resemble something Groucho Marx would have been happy to star in. All told with a light touch and a fabulous sense of the ridiculous.