Empty Set

Originally written in Spanish, Empty Set by visual artist Verónica Gerber Bicecci (and translated by Christina MacSweeney) is a wonderfully beguiling novel that demonstrates the beautiful similarities between language and math. The narrator, also named Verónica, loses, finds and loses love, while wrestling with the disassembly of her nuclear family. To understand better why people come into her life only to leave, she seeks to find patterns in her relationships, drawing from algebra and geometry, astronomy and the science of tree-ring analysis.

Bicecci documents Verónica's search for meaning through a series of fragmented passages and drawings that build and climax like a more traditional text, but that remain enigmatic enough to leave several moments up for interpretation. That's not to say the novel is difficult to read. On the contrary, Bicecci's sentences (and MacSweeney's translation) run as clear as spring water and are a joy to take in, from start to finish.

Empty Set is also brimming with observations that verge on existential philosophy: "Our story began several times and only ended once, that's why it's impossible to understand which of the beginnings was the one that ended." Here and throughout the novel, Bicecci demonstrates a talent for telling a familiar love story in astounding new ways.

Empty Set is only Bicecci's second book, and first translated into English, but it sets a new standard for excellence in experimental fiction. MacSweeney's translation work, which had to account for Bicecci's drawings as well as her prose, is equally admirable. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

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