(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The structure of Osman Lins’s Avalovara is at once astonishingly complex and altogether transparent. The sequence of events is predetermined by a geometric design which appears before the first page of text, consisting of a Latin palindrome of five five-letter words with a spiral superimposed on it. To visualize this palindrome here, draw a large square subdivided into twenty-five smaller squares—five across and five down. In the first row of squares place the letters S-A-T-O-R; in the second, A-R-E-P-O; in the third, T-E-N-E-T; in the fourth, O-P-E-R-A; and in the fifth, R-O-T-A-S. The entire square is centered over a fourteen-ring spiral.

Each letter of the palindrome represents one plot line, and when the spiral touches a letter, a passage of that plot line appears. Since some letters are more frequent than others, plot segments vary in number of episodes from twenty-four (letter “O”) to two (letter “N,” which is in the center of the design). In addition, episodes increase in length each time that particular plot line reappears—most are ten lines long in the first episode, twenty lines long in the second, and so on. Exceptions are the themes corresponding to the letters “P” and “T,” whose first episodes are twelve and twenty lines long, respectively.

Such a contrived structure would make Avalovara’s plot seem to be an extremely easy one to recount, but in fact the reading experience is nearly...

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(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Frizzi, Adria. “Osman Lins: An Introduction.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 15 (Fall, 1995): 155-160. An excellent presentation of Lins and his work. Frizzi notes that Lins was the “epitome of an outsider” and that although his experiments in narration and textual time and space sometimes make his works difficult to understand, they are not inaccessible.

Ladiera, Julieta Goloy. “Osman Lins: Crossing Frontiers.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 15 (Fall, 1995): 186-195. Ladiera discusses the power of literature to cross, even transcend, borders. She examines Lins’s fiction from this perspective, showing how his work surmounts cultural and social boundaries by means of ideas.

Scliar, Moacyr. “Living on Literature or for Literature?” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 15 (Fall, 1995): 196-197. Offers insight into Lins’s career and his struggle to succeed as a writer in spite of the political, economic, and cultural crisis in his native Brazil. Although living conditions were at times harsh, the greater challenge for Lins was to develop his craft.

Simas, Rosa. Circularity and Visions of the New World in William Faulkner, Gabriel García Márquez, and Osman Lins. Lewiston, Maine: Edwin Mellen Press, 1993. A perceptive series of essays, exploring the common themes and visions of three great writers. Includes an essay devoted to Avalovara.

West, Paul. “Osman Lins’s Avalovara.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 15 (Fall, 1995): 208-210. West analyzes the style of Lins’s novel, noting that the text is dense, uses the structure of a palindrome, and incorporates visual signifiers. West also addresses the symbolism of the characters, particularly Abel’s mistress.