Excerpt from Delirium by Laura Restrepo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Novel

by Laura Restrepo

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  • First Published:
    Apr 2007, 336 pages
    Mar 2008, 336 pages

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I KNEW SOMETHING irreparable had happened the moment a man opened the door to that hotel room and I saw my wife sitting at the far end of the room, looking out the window in the strangest way. I’d just returned from a short trip, four days away on business, and I swear that Agustina was fine when I left, I swear nothing odd was going on, or at least nothing out of the ordinary, certainly nothing to suggest what would happen to her while I was gone, except for her own premonitions, of course, but how was I to believe her when Agustina is always predicting some catastrophe; I’ve tried everything to make her see reason, but she won’t be swayed, insisting that ever since she was little she’s had what she calls the gift of sight, or the ability to see the future, and God only knows the trouble that’s caused us.

This time, as usual, my Agustina predicted that something would go wrong, and once again, I ignored her prediction; I went away on a Wednesday, leaving her painting the apartment walls green, and on Sunday, when I returned, I found her in a hotel in the north of the city, transformed into someone terrified and terrifying, a being I barely recognized. I haven’t been able to find out what happened to her while I was gone because when I ask she turns on me, it’s incredible how fierce she can be when she’s upset, she treats me as if I'm not me and she’s not who she used to be, or at least that’s how I try to explain it, and if I can’t it’s because I don’t understand it myself. The woman I love is lost inside her own head and for fourteen days now I’ve been searching for her, wearing myself out trying to find her, but it’s excruciating and impossibly difficult; it’s as if Agustina were living on a plane parallel to reality, close but just out of reach, as if she were speaking a strange language that I vaguely recognize but can’t quite comprehend. My wife’s unhinged mind is a dog snapping at me, but at the same time its barking is a call for help, a call to which I’m unable to respond; Agustina is a hurt and starving dog who wants to go home but can’t, and the next minute she’s a stray dog who can’t even remember it once had a home.


I'M GOING TO TELL YOU this point–blank because you have the right to know it, Agustina sweetheart, and anyway what do I have to lose talking about it all, when I’ve got nothing left anymore. Your husband is spinning in circles trying to find out what the hell happened to you and there’s so much even you don’t know, because listen, Agustina darling, all stories are like a big cake, with everybody’s eyes on the piece they’re eating, and the only one who sees the whole thing is the baker. But before I start, let me tell you that I’m happy to see you, despite everything I’ve always been happy to see you, and the truth is that after what happened you’re the only person I wanted to see. Will you believe me if I tell you that this disaster started with a simple bet? It’s almost embarrassing to confess, Agustina doll, because you took it all so seriously and were hurt so badly by it, but it was the lowest kind of bet, a dirty joke if we’re going to call things by their true names, a prank that turned bloody.

We dubbed it Operation Lazarus, because the idea was to see whether we could breathe life back into Spider Salazar’s pecker, which had been dead between his legs since the accident at the Las Lomas Polo Club. Do you remember the scandal, Agustina darling? The truth is, it was a stupid, ordinary accident, although later people tried to make it seem more heroic by spreading the story that Spider fell off his horse during a match against a Chilean team, but the rough stuff actually came later, during a drunken free–for–all, because the match was in the morning and Spider had watched it from one of the bottom rows of the stands since he’s too fat to make it up to the top, and I can tell you that the closest he got to the action was betting on the Chileans and against the locals. The Chileans won and then were treated to a typical Colombian lunch that they probably choked down out of politeness, who knows what folk dishes were foisted on them—suckling pig, tamales, fritters, figs with caramel cream, or all of the above—and then they went back to their hotel to digest it while at the club the revelry went on, everyone getting drunker by the minute. Rivers of whiskey flowed, it got dark, and the only people left were the local polo players and the club regulars when Spider and his pals decided to saddle up, and I’m guessing, or actually I know, that when the happy pack rode into the night they were all as drunk as cossacks, a gang of juiced–up clowns; I don’t know whether your brother Joaco was with them, Agustina doll, though probably he was, because Joaco never misses the chance for a spree.

Excerpted from Delirium by Laura Restrepo Copyright © 2007 by Laura Restrepo. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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