Queipo, Xavier. “Kite”, Small Stations Press, 2018.
Into the Lives of Emigrants
When I first learned of the publication of “Kite” by Xavier Queipo, all I knew about it was that there was something of a gay theme to it. I had no idea who Quiepo is and I am somewhat embarrassed about that now knowing of his many literary accomplishments. Xavier Queipo is a Galician writer based in Brussels, Belgium who has published nearly twenty books, ranging from fiction, to poetry, to children’s literature, as well as essays. He has won several prizes for his novels, including the Spanish Critics Prize in 1991, for “The Arctic and Other Seas” and the Blanco Amor Prize in 2015 for his most recent novel, “Os kowa”. He also works as a translator, and has translated work by Joseph Conrad as well as being one of the four collaborators on the 2013 award-winning translation of James Joyce’s ”Ulysses” into Galician.
“Kite” is the story of Francis, a Galician-born emigrant in the United States living in the city of San Rafael, north of San Francisco and who works as a freelance translator and editor. While at the movies seeing “Apocalypse Now” (based on Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”), he meets Rose, a liberal and career-minded Irishwoman, and they are soon involved in quite a passionate relationship. However, this is threatened when Francis’s publisher, Martin, asks him to finish an English translation of the Portuguese writer José Saramago’s “Essay on Blindness” but it must be done quickly as there have been predictions that Saramago might win the Nobel Prize. Francis has been diagnosed with the onset of blindness and wonders if there will be time to finish the translation. We go on a journey into the lives of emigrants in the United States whose traditional upbringing is often in conflict with the new liberal society they find here. We also meet Andy who is Francis’s ex-lover and still a loyal friend and for whom there are still many strong feelings. With a return to the Galicia where he was born, his hopes for a restful visit do not work out and he is beset by catastrophe. The story ends with a Chinese boy on the beach in San Rafael, trying to fly his kite and we understand this to be a symbol of something or someone at the mercy of the wind. Francis offers to help the boy who is unsure as to whether to accept and we are left to ponder what that means.
This is quite a reading experience and I found myself affected by almost every word that seemed to be carefully chosen to take us through Francis’s life and experiences. In the back of mind I kept hearing T.S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock saying that “there will be time” while not believing that to be so. The philosophical question of the meaning of life is everywhere here but as a question and not an answer.