Escape Attempt by Miguel Angel Hernandez and Rhett McNeil (translator)

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Escape Attempt by Miguel Angel Hernandez and Rhett McNeil (translator)

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Anna Hollingsworth
Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth
Summary: What are the limits when theory is turned into practice? The socially reclusive student Marcos is forced to face fundamental questions of art and ethics when he is recruited as the research assistant to a radical artist. Bringing together questions of immigration and social art, this novel treats the reader to an immensely thought-provoking experience.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 300 Date: April 2016
Publisher: Hispabooks Publishing
ISBN: 978-8494365874

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Immigration and radical contemporary art: the two themes of Miguel Ángel Hernández's Escape Attempt are debate-provoking even on their own, but brought together into one plot, they fall nothing short of creating a painfully current and ruthlessly polemic novel. The brave choice of subject matter takes the reader on a journey that revolts, angers, and excites: Escape Attempt is an experience that does not leave the reader untouched, and locks them in a page-turner that cannot be escaped.

Fine Arts student Marcos's life is a dichotomy between academic excellence and social awkwardness. In the classroom, his understanding of and insights into art fare far beyond those of his peers; outside the classroom, he veils himself in baggy black clothes and seeks solace in barriers of books. There is a change of tide when Jacobo Montes, social artist renowned for his radical work, comes to town and Marcos becomes a research assistant to the artist's brutal, groundbreaking, and even revolting methods. When theory turns into practice, Hernández leads the reader to the fundamentals of ethics and the philosophy or art: what is art? Do the same rules apply when the artist's tools are a canvas or another living, breathing human being? Is anything allowed in the name of conveying a social message and creating a work of art?

Where Hernández's skills as a writer really come to their own is in the depictions of the fictional artwork. The author conveys the visual as verbal, presenting to the reader an experience for all five senses. The masochist art so central to the novel is depicted in such a psychologically real way that its physical effects can be truly felt: the reader feels sick at the self-inflicted pain that the fictional artists undergo to capture their inner visions, and is urged to close their eyes even if the images Hernández paints are in their mind and not on the pages of the book. Escape Attempt embraces brave and even risky topics that Hernández manages to tackle with dexterity.

Yet, the psychologically scarily real story-telling does not support the plot evenly. The descriptions of Marcos's social angst are nowhere near on a par with the gut-wrenching depictions of controversial social art. Hernández's picture of the socially reclusive student, clad in black borders, on stereotypical and fails to arouse any emotion comparable to the paragraphs about art. Also the dialogue fails to reach the same levels of fluency. Perhaps there is a case to be made for something being lost in translation, but the speech of the characters comes out as clumsy more often than not, and strikes the reader as artificially colloquial and fake.

To describe Escape Attempt as polemic would be a gross understatement. Although it fails to deliver a uniformly skillfully written story, it provides a read that goes beyond its plot and reads as a social commentary, a rollercoaster for all the senses, and definite food for thought.

If this book appeals to you, then you might also like to try White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

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Buy Escape Attempt by Miguel Angel Hernandez and Rhett McNeil (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Escape Attempt by Miguel Angel Hernandez and Rhett McNeil (translator) at


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