What Goes Unsaid: A Memoir of Fathers Who Never Were

Emiliano Monge

What Goes Unsaid: A Memoir of Fathers Who Never Were
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What Goes Unsaid: A Memoir of Fathers Who Never Were

Emiliano Monge

In 1958, Carlos Monge McKey sneaks out of his home in the middle of the night to fake his own death. He does not return for four years.

A decade later, his son, Carlos Monge Sánchez, deserts his family too, joining a guerrilla army of Mexican revolutionaries.

Their stories are unspooled by grandson and son Emiliano, a writer, who also chooses to escape reality, by creating fictions to run away from the truth.

What Goes Unsaid
is an extraordinary memoir that delves into the fractured relationships between fathers and sons, grandfathers and grandsons; that disinters the ugly notions of masculinity and machismo that all men carry with them - especially in a patriarchal culture like Mexico. It is the story of three men, who - each in his own way - flee their homes and families in an attempt to free themselves.

Review

One night in 1958, Carlos Monge McKey dies in an accident at his workplace, leaving his wife and children behind. Four years later, with a different face, he returns.This incident plants a bitter seed of dissatisfaction and longing for three generations of Emiliano Monge’s family.

Monge charts the winding course of how his grandfather’s faked death opened an unspoken wound, especially in his own father, Carlos Monge Sanchez, a sculptor who left his family to become a revolutionary in a guerrilla army to fight the Mexican government, only to be imprisoned, tortured, and returned to the family he tried to abandon. Monge coils his narrative around a central question: why? Why did his grandfather fake his death? Why did his father go and fight? Why does he himself retreat from the truth into fiction? Instead of approaching this head on from solely his perspective, Monge ties in three intertwining voices: a bitter and disillusioned monologue from his father; selections from his grandfather’s journals, discovered after his death; and most curiously, his own story, told in third-person. Time fragments in incidents, impressions and details, the shifting perspectives giving What Goes Unsaid a cubist effect, and a particularly chilly sense of alienation. Monge’s stylistic conceit is constantly probing, trying to identify the essential reason why the men in his family did what they did, but provides no easy answers.

Monge is a luminous voice in contemporary Mexican literature, whose writing sits between the virtuoso abrasion of Fernanda Melchor and the sensuous lyricism of Coral Bracho. I found What Goes Unsaid to be uniquely cutting. As someone who had a fraught relationship to a distant father, Monge’s memoir struck me with a powerful melancholy force. Every word of his book illuminates painful emotions, in all their subtle tones.


Nick Curnow is from Readings Carlton

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