Carlos Labbé is kind of a downer. Well, sort of. Maybe he’s just a realist.
In his novel Loquela, he tackles the usually unspoken realities of writing in a dizzying, often nonsensical blurring of memoir and fiction: a literary distinction Labbé does not seem to care for.
Loquela portends to be a meta-fictional novel about a writer, writing a novel. The book is divided into three parts: “The Novel,” “The Sender,” and “The Recipient” and the pages of the book jump between the sections at random.
There seem to be a number of characters who appear and reappear in each of the different sections, “He who is writing the novel,” Violetta, Carlos, the Albino girl, amongst others, but it becomes quickly apparent the reader would have an impossible time making heads or tails of any of them; their relationship to each other, their relationship to the sometime narrator, any of it.
The thing is, the story doesn’t matter. In Loquela people and objects are constantly changing; name, form, etc., they are however, just as often changing back into something they were previously, giving the illusion that if one would just try a little bit harder, one could decipher it all.
But try as one might, one can’t: There are only two characters in Loquela.
“To write ‘I am alone’ is comical…because the simple fact of writing it refutes it,” Labbé writes, echoing the thinking of Descartes and Barthes and their investigations into the role (or primacy) of language in defining existence.
Labbé points out the paradox of language page after page after page in Loquela: language, despite its voracious attempt at conclusive definition, is capable of anything but.
Loquela is a study in, at the same time, possibility and impossibility.
You see it in the book over which the writer seems to have no control; the narrative seems to be writing itself, characters who are constantly changing, and changing back: Just like the imaginary (assumedly) world of Neutria Labbé’s characters are imagining, all of Labbé’s characters exist together
“The ekphrasis had revealed itself and I’d been unable to write it,” he writes late in the book, “[I wish] that I didn’t speak with someone else’s voice whenever I want to make myself understood,” he says in another: honest writing is impossible.
Loquela is a book of the 21st century. A book written by someone for whom critique is engrained. It’s the product of the notion of a perpetually present history and memory. “Hundreds of people accompany me when I write that I am alone.” Labbé writes, asserting the notion throughout that our inextricable presentness defies our attempts at history-making.
Loquela is a book about books, about writing, about the writing process. How impossible it is. How dishonest it is. How much it fucks with your mind, both that of the writer and that of the artist. How impossible it is to eliminate oneself, and how impossible it is to communicate oneself at the same time.