In the subsidiary offices of a major Latin American corporation, the power suddenly goes out: the lights switch off; the doors lock; the phone lines are cut. The employees are trapped in total darkness with only cryptic, intermittent announcements dispatched over the loud speaker, instructing all personnel to remain at their work stations until further notice.
The Subsidiary is one worker’s testimony to what happens during the days he spends trapped within the building’s walls, told exclusively—and hauntingly—through the stamps he uses to mark corporate documents.
Hand-designed by the author with a stamp set he bought in an bookstore in Santiago, Matías Celedón’s The Subsidiary is both an exquisite object and a chilling avant-garde tale from one of Chile’s rising literary stars.
A book told with a set of rubber stamps? I’m there!
Sadly, the book wasn’t quite all… there.
The idea is great. The alphabet stamps are used in interesting ways to hint at bars, blinds, the tedium that is waiting. Some pages made me smile at their cleverness. And it certainly reads quickly, with only one sentence on each page. At times the writing feels like poetry.
But once you get to the end you’re like… what? The power is cut, weird stuff happens, the power eventually turns back on. The end. There’s dialog and other things that happen in the middle but they’re fleeting and confusing. I’m not sure what the point was. Maybe if I knew more about Chile’s history? Am I missing some huge, overarching metaphor?
It’s like a lost opportunity – the form could lend itself to deep truths and realizations and experiences, but we only skim along on the surface. Maybe I raised my expectations too high but I was quite disappointed.
I flipped back to the beginning to have another go but the lack of execution still stuck out. Ah well, I guess it’s not for me.
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