The Forgery

Charco Press” says the blurb on their website, “focuses on finding outstanding contemporary Latin American literature and bringing it to new readers in the English-speaking world.” They’ve been at it since 2017, but I only became aware of them a few months ago. On perusing their catalogue, I was intrigued to find I’d barely heard of any of their authors. Not really knowing where to start I took a chance on a couple of their volumes that seemed, in synopsis, like they might interest me: Havana Year Zero by Karla Suárez and The Forgery by Ave Barrera. Both were enjoyable, with the latter in particular very much to my taste.

The Forgery (original title Puertas Demasiado Pequeñas: literally “Doors Too Small”) is Barrera’s first novel. Set in Guadalajara, it follows the fortunes and misfortunes of José Federico Burgos, a struggling artist turned copyist, who is persuaded by a wealthy businessman to engage in the outright forgery of a 16th-century Flemish altarpiece. Barrera skilfully combines naturalistic episodes with hallucinatory ones, and her story takes several surprising turns which yet do not feel like gratuitous twists. The imagery and situations are memorably striking; the characters are well-sketched and the prose is good. All that and something of a fairy-tale ending in a compact 173 pages - I loved it.

In the picture of my copy of The Forgery (above), the geometric background is provided by the cover of a Folio Society edition of Christopher Isherwood’s Mr. Norris Changes Trains. I like the bold designs on the Charco Press covers, which seem somewhat reminiscent to me (in a good way) of ’70s textbooks. I’ve since ordered two more of their titles.