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- Publisher: MacLehose Press
- Format: Hardback | 144 pages
- Dimensions: 135mm x 190mm x 20mm | 264g
- Publication date: 1 September 2011
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0857050672
- ISBN 13: 9780857050670
- Sales rank: 1,728,660
Tancredo, a young hunchback, observes and participates in the goings-on at the church in which he lives under the care of Father Almida. Also in residence are the sexton Celeste Machado, his goddaughter Sabina Cruz, and three widows known collectively as the Lilias, who do the cooking and cleaning and provide charity meals for the local poor and needy. One Thursday, Father Almida and the sexton have to rush off to meet the parish's principal benefactor, Don Justiniano. It will be the first time Father Almida has not given mass for forty years. Eventually they find a stand-in in, Father Matamoros, a drunkard with a beautiful voice whose sung mass is spellbinding to all. The Lilias prepare a sumptuous meal for Father Matamoros, who persuades them to drink with him. Over the course of the long night the women and Tancredo lose their inhibitions and confess their own sins and stories to this strange priest, as well as those of others. With a skilfully created, idiosyncratic narrator in Tancredo, and peopled with carnivalesque characters, Good Offices is a beautifully poetic, compact and vivid satire on the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.
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Evelio Rosero is the author of seven novels and two collections of short stories, as well as of books for children. In Colombia his work has been recognized by the National Literature Award. The Armies (MacLehose Press, 2008) won the 2006 Tusquets International Novel Prize and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2009. Anne McLean has translated the novels of Javier Cercas, Julio Cortazar and Tomas Eloy Martinez, among others. She has twice won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, for Cercas' Soldiers of Salamis and Evelio Rosero's The Armies, and won the Premio Valle Inclan for Soldiers of Salamis. This is her first collaboration with Anna Milsom.
'The book takes place over a long night - not of the soul but of carnival. Characters inhabit a medieval world, sealed from modernity within church and presbytery. This is less a satire on Colombian politics than on the Universal Church. The present Pope Benedict would, one suspect, easily recognise the fusty narrowness alternating with libidinous excess that marks such an unhealthy introversion. It also works as a parable of Colombia. With its waste of grandeur in a sea of bloody tragedy, this is a theme already richly explored in Rosero's earlier novel, The Armies. Like The Armies, winner of the 2009 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, Good Offices has the atmosphere of a stage set on which the characters fulfil the established roles of a Commedia dell' Arte. Despite the air of sacrilege and saturnalia, none is seriously bad, just all-too-human' Amanda Hopkinson, The Independent. 'Good Offices compels with its gothic atmospherics. The stringent satire, with nods to Victor Hugo, never eclipses the fragile dilemmas of the put-upon acolyte, while the novel hints at a wider web of sinister power and patronage that entails cocaine, corruption and, above all, fear. The translation is sublime. Moving from offbeat humour to soaring spiritual ecstasy, it has both pathos and punch' Guardian . 'Though a slim volume at 140 pages, Evelio Rosero's Good Offices provides layers of intrigue in his simple, yet far from plain, prose ... Rosero's stories are often studies on human nature, his observations tinged with quiet despair ... Rosero's main strength lies in evoking the emotional hunger of his characters through deft twists in plot and appropriately placed allegories. Despite their jarring actions, they are the key ingredient in this tale and linger long after the last page has been turned' The National. 'With a skilfully created, idiosyncratic narrator in Tancredo, and peopled with carnivalesque characters, Good Offices is a beautifully poetic, compact and vivid satire on the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church' Artswarp.