Author: Manuel Moyano
- Editorial Anagrama
- ISBN: 9788433997876
- Release Date: 11-03-2014
-Reviewed by: Catherine Jagoe
El imperio de Yegorov is an entertaining and unusual novel set over a 75 year period between 1967 and 2042. It blends many different genres, including mystery, fantasy, horror and dystopian science fiction. It was a finalist for the 2014 Herralde prize in Spain. Plot is the main driving force: in the 1960s, a young Japanese anthropologist becomes infected with a parasite fatal to humans while doing field research in Papua, New Guinea. She is given a local plant remedy and returns to Japan, where she continues ingesting the plant in order to remain asymptomatic. In later years, it becomes apparent that the presence of the parasite in her body forestalls aging and death. Her doctor, with whom she has begun an affair, isolates the chemical substance in the plant and the two of them disappear to California, where they set up a company, Pine Chemical Inc., and begin secretly marketing the parasite and remedy to wealthy film stars avid to stay young forever.
Increasing numbers of the jet set are “inoculated” with the parasite and attract attention as they live into their nineties and hundreds with no sign of aging. Meanwhile, the anthropologist’s husband uses a private detective agency to track her down. Once in California, various other characters become involved: a poet is mysteriously abducted when he is mistaken for a homeless person, but manages to escape. He attempts to report his abduction to the police but is fobbed off. The Japanese couple become immensely rich and powerful, because once people are inoculated with the parasite, they are dependent on the medication “elatrine” to stay alive and healthy. If not furnished with a daily supply, they will die an agonizing and gruesome death within days.
Eventually a Russian oligarch, Yegorov, gets wind of the discovery and stages raids to assassinate the original owners of Pine Chemical and take over control of the manufacturing and distribution process. By the end of the novel, he has become ruler of the world.
What makes this book unusual is its metafictional narrative technique. There is no narrator as such: the reader is given pieces information in chronological order and required to deduce what is going on. The book purports to be a series of 32 historical documents compiled in 2042 by two anonymous editors belonging to an anti-Yegorov resistance movement; the documents include entries from an anthropologist’s diary, a blog, letters, emails, SMS, detective agency reports, a police interrogation transcript, a telegram, newspaper reports, interviews, a medication information sheet, a televangelist’s sermon and an obituary. Even the book’s dedication, epigraph, preface and acknowledgments are metafictional, and there are lines in Moyano’s author biography and cover blurb that continue the metafictional game.