Bonus Reading: “The Subsidiary” by Matías Celedón

Bonus Reading: The Subsidiary by Matías Celedón

List Progress: 32/30

The Subsidiary, a book by Chilean author Matías Celedón, has a very cool premise, one that almost makes it more of an art piece than a novel. A factory has cut off their power and locked all their employees in, and the only way the narrator can tell his story is by arranging the type-set rubber stamps that he usually uses for official documents. Each page only has a few short lines of text, along with occasional illustrations, color changes, or stains (possibly blood, possibly red ink). It is a fascinating concept, a sort of “found text” novel, as much a record of a brutal time as a found footage horror movie. But that same brevity and sketchy nature works against the book having much in the way of actual story.

The workers in the factory are referred to by what various disabilities they have (the blind woman, the mute woman, the one-armed man, ect), which makes them feel more like symbolic archetypes than characters. The plot similarly feels like it has a lot of grand sweeping statements about the nature of man and animals, and little of how people actually behave. Not every story has to be literal, but with an already-abstract format, some grounding with real people would have been nice.

I admire The Subsidiary more than I actually enjoy it. It is a stylistic swing for the fences, and I appreciate when authors try new things, even if they don’t always pay off. And at the very least, it is a very short time commitment, so it is worth the time.

Would I Recommend It: Yes, especially since you can read the whole thing in a fifteen minute sitting.

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