This is the first review of my dad’s book so far. It was published in the Easy Reader and is a pretty damn good review, if you ask me:)
The Undiscovered Island, by Darrell Kastin (Portuguese in the Americas Series, 411 pp., $25 paper)
by JB Kennedy
Published August 13, 2009
“What a great read!” – Gregory Rabassa.
Rabassa concluded his remarks about this novel with those words. Unequivocal hype. To a passionate skeptic hype is both an abomination, and a challenge. But now having read The Undiscovered Island, this skeptic recognizes that this is one of those exceptionally rare instances in which hype is an exercise in understatement.
Rabassa, whose acuity and talent have long been admired, also used the word “epic” in his remarks. A reading makes one realize that his use of “epic” was neither careless nor delusional. Indeed, I want to be on record as being among the first to recognize this book as a seminal work in 21st Century literature. It is certain to inspire a host of doctoral dissertations. And will be returned to periodically and earnestly by literary critics, as well as language scholars. And it will be mined by professors of Metaphysics in perpetuity.
This is a missing-person mystery set in the Azores. The Azores, the islands themselves perform prominently in the story. They, just as the convincingly drawn human characters, compel and reward the reader’s attention. Sebastiao de Canto e Castro has disappeared while in the Azores. His daughter, Julia Castro, arrives to search for him. Later, her brother Antonio joins her in the search.
This is the blueprint Kastin has used to erect an edifice that is both authentically enduring, and richly ornate. As Julia’s search for her missing father becomes increasingly complex and frustrating, the suspense keeps pace. But (“epic” again), this narrative shares with the early epics the characteristic of being a story eclipsed by its telling.
Kastin is attentive to the interactions of myth and reality; of legends and the sometimes mysterious imperatives of genealogy. He is sensitive to the effects that unimaginable natural phenomena can have on the imagination. And he is open to the realization of hallucination as a mode of perception. Plus, he exhibits a recognition of the power of Poetry to illuminate and motivate as well as exhilarate. (A luminous incidental is the generous exposure to rapturous Portuguese Poetry). The poems perform as an active adrenal gland in the body of the text.)
In addition, observations, speculations and divinations about the Azores by historical and literary figures throughout 700 years serve to focus and energize the narrative; and perform as overtures to apparitions.
Finally, a fascinating component is Julia’s finding, on various occasions, of fragments of her father’s writings. She scrutinizes them in search of clues to his whereabouts. This reader, for one, would like to see more of the work of this shadowy, enigmatic wise man. Sequel? ER