Alfonso – Review I Lindquist

May 5, 2014

Having had the pleasure of discovering Félix Calvino’s collection of short stories published as A Hatful of Cherries in 2007, I was drawn to this novella, which is his latest publication.

It is 1962, Alfonso is 22 and alone, having fled a life of rural poverty in Franco’s Spain. He has sacrificed all he knows for the chance of a better life in Sydney where he understands little of the language, customs or rules of social engagement.  He struggles with loneliness but is determined to fit in, find love and build a future. He’s a serious young man but he has a self-deprecating sense of humour and quiet sense of gratitude on his side.

Calvino, himself a Spanish migrant, knows this journey firsthand and reveals it through vignettes that are deceptively simple, often funny, sometimes disturbing, but which always have heart. We walk the streets of Sydney with Alfonso. Renovating his dilapidated terrace house in Surry Hills becomes a metaphor for replacing the old with the new, and we share Alfonso’s hope that with the nest lovingly prepared, the woman of his dreams will make herself known.

Timeless and keenly observed, the story weaves back and forth between the two versions of Alfonso that co-exist and which he knows always will: one that connects him inextricably to the past and the other that beckons him towards an unknown yet hopeful future.

A very worthy read.

Jill Lindquist
Coorparoo, QLD