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Book Review: Alessando Baricco's Abel

Last time he published his novel, it was 2015, and it was called La sposa giovane. Then in 2018 he came back with The Game researching how a massive technological leap changed human behavior and our life. Afterwards - silence. Predetermined by pandemic and cruel personal illness. It took nine years for a well-known Italian writer Alessandro Baricco to present the world with his newest novel, Abel, which he himself describes as a metaphysical western.

The idea of a Western may seem peculiar, but it excellently fulfills the author's intention of conveying life's truths in a wild Western setting. There, where death lurks not only around the corner but also stares directly at you, where the wisdom of ancient natives casts not only the mystic shadows but also reflects the meaning of life, where a well-timed shot turns you into a legend or plunges you into oblivion.

Abel Crow lives in this imaginary West. He is a shooter from the young days. As he reckons, he became a man at eleven and old - at nineteen when he, as the oldest son, was left alone to look after his brothers and a sister. At the age of twenty-seven Abel becomes a legend when he, an active sheriff, stops the robbery by simultaneously firing two guns and hitting two different targets. Only very few people are capable of this shot called Mistico.

However, events are the minor element of this novel. It is a spiritual story radiating eternal human wisdom that really matters. Timewise, the story is not linear: it's like our thoughts, the events leap from the present to the past and back again, piecing together fragments of Abel's life. whether it's a conversation with his beloved Hallelujah, or his sister's devised plan to save their mother from the gallows, or an old bruja's (witch in Spanish) prophecy. The latter is an infinitely simple yet insanely complex metaphor at the same time meant to depict human existence: " it will be very painful, but one day, Abel, I promise you, you will be born."

Throughout the entire novel, there's also the consideration of why the author gave the main character the name Abel. It's like a tribute to the biblical Abel. In the metaphysical world of the book, he is the first son, a legendary gunslinger, and Mistico legend. Even the doubt is cast towards the true biblical version of the first murder in the world: "Do you really think a dumb farmer [Cain] can kill a shepherd like that, without even thinking much about it?,,, sometimes the Bible is incomprehensible..."

Abel is not intended for retelling. It is a reader's journey through the spiritual fantasy world of Alessandro Baricco, where experience of each reader will be unique and different. Reading Baricco in Italian is a true privilege because, although quite unrefined, the author's style is a meditation radiating wisdom and offering hope.


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