Peeters cleverly unravels the myth surrounding Neruda without knocking him off his pedestal. An original biographical novel. Written, as befits a poet, in sparkling language.
Intoxicating language saturated with warm hues that’s allowed to rustle like a veiled wedding dress, and you have a lavish novel by a gifted poet.
This phantasmagoric novel by the celebrated Dutch poet Peeters (Maturity, 2011, etc.) is a strange experience, poetic in word and verse [...]Â Malva's voice is intriguing, having evolved beyond revenge or anger into a deeper acceptance. An evocative portrait of a lost girl demanding agency even in the face of death itself.
There are many parallels between the mute Malva and the language-and literature-loving Peeters in this father-daughter book full of yearning for recognition.
The writing is lyrical, sensuous, animated by Latin passion and flights of the imagination. […] This style setsMalva apart. [… Malva] is a spy ensconced inside [Neruda’s] brain, rounding out what we know of him with her own interpretation of his thoughts and motivations, occasionally erupting in anger, more often hurt, yet forgiving. Much as we may love Neruda’s poetry, it is chastening to find out that the idol has feet of clay.
– Hester Velmans,Full Stop
Marvelous surrealist novel (...), strongly reminiscent of Allende and Marquez (...), a fascinating patchwork of fiction and history.
Peeters impresses with poetic prose full of magical realism, biographical details and psychological insight.
The book is as lush with speculative literary history as it is with lyrical prose,Â picking its way through the sticky webs of family dynamics and revolutionary politics with a focus on neglected figures. [...] As Malva reclaims her father’s pen to tell her story of abandonment, the novel probes the question of how to make sense of Neruda’s political outspokenness in light of his silence on the subject of his own mute daughter,Â revisiting his poetry to find where Malva might fit among all the omissions. MalvaÂ is as much a triumphant meditation on disability as it is a fiercely revisionist biography. [...] Peeters misses no chance to show her poetic strength.
– Grant Schatzman,World Literature Today
An incandescent and evocative debut.
It only takes half a page to realize that the poet Hagar Peeters is also a novelist of exceptional ability.
–NRC Handelsblad, 4-stars
MalvaÂ is a hypnotically poetic novel, in Peeters’s original Dutch as much as in the translation by Vivien Glass. The afterlife has granted the disabled eight-year-old Malva Marina a precociously eloquent kind of wisdom and a wicked sense of humor.Â Mute and powerless during her brief earthly existence, she’s now chatty and happily omniscient. She barely seems to hold a grudge against her absent, famous father. But she’s also ruthless when it comes to his contradictions.
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