(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Locos: A Comedy of Gestures consists of a prologue with interconnected stories narrated by an unnamed writer who observes prostitutes, gamblers, and thieves gathering at a café, where writers may choose from among them for characters in their stories. “Identity” concerns Fulano, a persona who searches for recognition as a real character. Dr. José de los Rios suggests that Fulano fake his suicide, then return to Madrid, where he and the writer will help make him a more substantive character. Fulano does as the doctor instructs but does not realize that an escaped convict then assumes Fulano’s identity, becoming better known than Fulano himself was. Fulano jumps successfully to his death following promises of literary immortality.

In “A Character,” Gaston (El Cogote) Bejarano observes a beautiful woman (Lunarito) walking alone in the rain. After they exchange kisses, the girl then disappears, and Bejarano returns to his lover, Carmen. The doctor takes the author to visit El Cogote, who, having learned of Lunarito’s murder, has become ill. He recounts a recurring dream in which his sister, Carmen, whom he retrieved from a convent following a family scandal, has Lunarito’s face. El Cogote provides one ending, the writer another.

In “The Beggar,” Garcia is devastated to discover that he has accidentally given another beggar his gold coin. Garcia tracks down the beggar, Don Baez, in a sumptuous house. Although he initially tries to retrieve the coin dishonestly, Garcia is taken aback at Baez’s generosity. Breaking down, he confesses his lies. Baez forgives him and promises Garcia future assistance.

In “Fingerprints,” Don Gil Bejarano, in order to compel Spanish citizens to have their...

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(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Alfau, Felipe. “Anonymity: An Interview with Felipe Alfau.” Interview by Ilan Stavans. The Review of Contemporary Fiction 13, no. 1 (Spring, 1993): 146-153. A revealing talk with the author in which he discusses his philosophy, politics, and life as a writer. Provides a telling glance into Alfau’s wry sense of humor.

Dirda, Michael. “Crazy Like a Fox.” The Washington Post Book World 19, no. 17 (April 23, 1989). Along with a detailed review of Locos, Dirda also provides some background on Felipe Alfau and puts the novel into literary context.

McCarthy, Mary. Afterword to Locos: A Comedy of Gestures, by Felipe Alfau. Elmwood Park, Ill.: The Dalkey Archive Press, 1988. An unabashed fan of Alfau, McCarthy revisits Locos, having originally reviewed the book in 1936 for The Nation. She also helps in untangling some complex plot points.

Shapiro, Anna. “Sixty-one Years of Solitude.” The New Yorker 65 (June 5, 1989): 105-108. A luminous review of Locos, along with a succinct overview of Alfau’s life.

Stavans, Ilan. Introduction to Sentimental Songs, by Felipe Alfau. Elmwood, Ill.: The Dalkey Archive Press. 1992. Stavans, who also interviewed Alfau in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, provides contextual information on Alfau’s work, including his relationship to the Romantic movement.