In Montevideo, as in the dreams, everything was known, but still foreign. It was, but was not.
The newest novel by Pedro Mairal, La Uruguaya, is about the author and family father Lucas Pereyra who takes the boat from Buenos Aires to Montevideo to collect his foreign salary in dollars. He has created a Uruguayan account to circumvent the home country’s currency restrictions. The trip across Rio de la Plata takes only a couple of hours and customs control between the two countries is often superficial.
The original text was written in NORWEGIAN. This is a Google translation.
Fairly similar, yet different. That’s how Argentinians experience it when they go on a weekend trip to Uruguay. About as Norwegians in Sweden, that is. It is this feeling of being in real life when visiting the neighboring country, yet standing on the side of it, which fascinates the writer Pedro Mairal. The astonishment to discover that something is still different when it appears identical on the surface.
Similarly, the protagonist of the novel may resemble the author himself. They are both Argentine writers with some success abroad. And, like its protagonist, Pedro Mairal also has an account with a Uruguayan bank. The two may seem identical, but are not. But so much so that Pedro Mairal found it necessary to gather the whole family in Buenos Aires for a big lunch, where he told them about the book and that «La Uruguaya» was not autobiographical. His wife probably appreciated that.
During the day trip to Montevideo, he – Lucas Pereyra – decides to visit Magalí, the woman from Uruguay, whom he met at a literature festival and had an affair with.
Most of the book is a kind of road movie and takes place as an inner monologue on the boat, on the bus and on foot in Montevideo’s streets. The protagonist talks to his wife and explains what he experiences as problematic in marriage, at the same time as the thoughts are constantly flowing to Magalí and what they had together sexually.
Pereyra is planning his novel about Brazil, this overwhelming neighboring country in the north that is too big even for a lifetime. It’s going to have to be an epic of over a thousand pages. But he wonders at the same time if he maybe should write about something smaller, be content with the little life in the parallel reality called Uruguay.
I was in love with a woman and fell in love with the town she lived in. And all the poem I up, or almost everything. An imaginary city in a neighboring country. In it, more than in real streets, I wandered around.
TO BE CONTINUED: I read Pedro Mairal’s book for the first time two years ago in an icy Montevideo.
I’ve even been in Uruguay several times, I have arrived from both the Argentinean and Brazilian side. It is a place one immediately feels at home. Home, yet abroad. It is the South American country most similar to Norway as well. As a Norwegian I feel Uruguay is my place in the South Atlantic, even more than in Brazil where i live part of the year.
In my next article about Montevideo I will introduce you to Palacio Salvo, the endless Avenida 18 de julio, the bookshops and their books, the city’s best egg benedict, as well as Casa Sarandi, the place to stay in Montevideo.