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  • Reviews for Rage by Sergio Bizzio
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Reviews for Rage by Sergio Bizzio
'A slow descent into the mind of a stalker is a great way to Sergio Bizzio's RAGE, from Bittler Lemon Press. José Maria is a 40-year-old man infatuated with a much younger woman, Rosa. She's a live-in maid who works for what used to be a high-society family in Buenos Aires. The novel starts off with a slow burn of hard-boiled noir, with the brutal death of a foreman on the construction site on which José worked.
José runs to the one place he knows he can hide for what he thinks will be a few days: in the house where Rosa works. But events take a very different turn when the family she works for comes home a lot sooner than expected. Under the cover of night, he leaves the home … at least that is what he wants Rosa to believe.
Instead, he has moved into the upper floors of this large home, which has pretty much been abandoned by the family. The story follows José as he slowly loses his grip on reality, making up a fantasy life in his mind, projecting his perfect ideal of Rosa as his love. We watch as he sneaks around the home at odd hours to survive, taking food he figures no one will miss. He gets so wrapped up in his own world, he makes a pet out of a rat.
What makes the story even more compelling is that it takes place over a few years. How he is never spotted in all that time should be taken with a grain of salt, but we also get glimpses of the family that seems to have slowly lost not only its status in society, but a large portion of money. Even when José actually talks to Rosa through a separate phone line, he acts as though he is still in a relationship with he, which only adds to his delusions.
RAGE is not some cut-and-dry piece of noir or mystery. It's more a true character study of man who made a bizarre choice in his life to hide away in plain sight. The cover claims that this book is more a portrait on society; if so, those portions might have been lost in translation, since what I read seemed more focused on José going out of his head to brutal extremes. One of the more original ideas to have come out, this is a novel that might slip through the cracks, if not for its supporters.' - Bookgasm
'SoHo Crime in the U.S. and Bitter Lemon Press in the U.K. are two of the leading independent publishers of international crime fiction in English. Their lists overlap a bit (both publish Garry Disher) and both publish novels that are detective-oriented and books that are more in the line of psychological novels (thrillers isn't really an adequate word), though SoHo's list tilts toward the detectives and Bitter Lemon's list tilts toward the psychologicals. The newly translated (by Amanda Hopkinson) Argentine novel Rage by Sergio Bizzio (from Bitter Lemon) is definitely in the latter category. The cover announces that it's to be made into a movie by Guillermo del Toro, and that's no surprise: the claustrophobic and high-concept novel hearkens back to early-20th-century expressionist writing in several ways. It's focused on the working class (as many of the expressionist writers were), it includes a hallucinatory (though also ordinary) architecture as its primary setting), and its effect is rather more like reading a ghost story or a fairy tale than reading a crime novel. In some ways it's a combination of the Phantom of the Opera and one of Francis Carco's gritty novels of lower-class Paris. There's also a hint of gender confusion in a couple of spots, one being that the primary character, José Maria, is most often called Maria. He's a construction worker who falls in love with a maid, Rosa, who works in a mansion near his current construction site. The novel actually begins with a suggestion of pornography, Maria suggesting a sex act that Rosa is reluctant to perform, in one of their rare moments together in a room-by-the-hour hotel. the tone shifts away from porn, though, when Maria goes on the run, pursued for the murder of his boss; instead of running way he runs in: he hides in the attic of the house where Rosa lives and works, but without telling her. The rest of the book narrates the scenes and sounds that Maria witnesses as he sneaks up and down staircases, through hallways of upper stories, and occasionally down to the ground floor, spying on Rosa and her employers and occasional visitors. The crimes that occur in the house, including rape and murder, are a less important aspect of the novel's texture than Maria's daily effort to survive undetected. As I said, it's easy to imagine del Toro's attraction for the story, given that director's interest in and skill with labyrinthine tales (both in scene and psychology). Bizzio's evocation of Maria-the-phantom's scurrying journeys and his glimpsed and overheard narrative is vivid, though I did find my attention lapsing now and then; it is, after all, a very high concept story--you either buy into the conceit or you don't; you're either in or out, there's no halfway. The same was true to some extent with some other Bitter Lemon books, Blackout (by Gianluca Morozzi, also to be made into a movie), for instance--though Blackout leads up to a plot twist while Rage moves forward with a kind of inexorable rhythm toward an almost inevitable conclusion foretold by a pun or double meaning in the original Spanish title that I can't explain without giving too much away. I'd definitely be interested in other books by Bizzio (and in the del Toro film), though Rage (in spite of the murder and mayhem) isn't the kind of crime novel I usually look for. Thanks are due to Bitter Lemon for stretching my reading horizons as well as for the high quality of their entire crime list.' - International Noir Fiction
'Rage by Sergio Bizzio is a strange and mesmerizing novel. In the world of Jose Maria, violence is happenstance, love is sudden, and subterfuge is mandatory. Jose Maria is barely visible, a man approaching the middle of his life, just getting by on his construction job, living on the fringes of Argentine society. A strong attraction, a premeditated murder, and the sudden return of rich Argentineans to their villa tended by Jose Maria's lover Rosa, results in the erasure of Maria (as he is called), his disappearance and his re-invention. He becomes invisible but omnipresent, and cycles of violence and tenderness, of sexuality and chastity, propel him onwards to realizing the nature of himself, his society, and the possibilities of life itself.
The book is full of surprises, both in observations and actions. The trajectory of the plot is impossible to predict; it is exciting and disturbing, shifting in speed from a safe lull to a suddenly accelerated careening towards discovery, both literally and figuratively. Maria is hidden to everyone but us, the readers, and he shares his own details and his observations sporadically, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident, but always viscerally and honestly. He comes to see things clearly, now that he has time for the first time in his life, time to think, and his vision is sharp and painful: "To please other people, there's no need to be beautiful but to be horrible...You have to say what others want to hear, you have to smile at everyone you meet, you need to be impersonal, transparent and a whole heap of other things too, all horrible." But Maria is not transparent, he is not visible at all, preferring only to leave enigmatic evidence -- toys, footprints, bodies, a filled toilet -- of his existence.
Rage is an exciting book, with many layers of meaning and no easy explanations or solutions, no stereotypes of character or landscape, and with haunting qualities of shared human experience, not only of rage, but of love, and of longing. This book will stay with me, percolating in my brain, for a very long time.' - Readallday
'Jose Maria, a lonely laborer with an explosive temper, lives only to see his beloved Rosa, a live-in maid working in a large villa. When the owners unexpectedly return, Jose Maria hides in the house and finds his new accommodations unexpectedly comfortable. Cutting all ties to the outside world, he dedicates his time to spying on the family, including visiting children and grandchildren, and seeing to his daily needs. As the months pass, Jose Maria becomes more involved in the family's lives and in the life of his beloved Rosa, even though she does not know that he lives in the villa. This fast-paced and entrancing psychological thriller, set in contemporary Buenos Aires, is soon to be made into a film noir by Guillermo del Toro. Expect considerable attention when the film opens.' - Booklist
'Jose Maria and Rosa are lovers, but it's a brutal love. At 25, Rosa is in awe of 40-year-old Jose Maria, or Maria as he likes to be called and accedes to his, sometimes, crude desires. It's a volatile, full-on relationship, as they make the best of their lives at the bottom end of the social scale in economically straitened Buenos Aires. But their lives are turned upside down when Maria murders his building site foreman after a petty row and "disappears". Rosa initially grieves for her lost love, whose disappearance puzzles her. As time goes on she begins to get on with her life, making new friends and lovers. She is not to know that Maria is holed up in the attic of the luxury mansion in which she works as maid and has been watching her every move - and that of the family living there. Gradually he reveals himself to Rosa, but we know there can only be one ending to this tragic tale.
Rage, by Sergio Bizzio, is a bleak, graphic novel but grips with every turn of the page. It has a Camus feel to the prose, with the short, sharp dialogue maintaining the tense atmosphere. Soon to be made into a film by Guillermo del Toro, it will make for gripping, if uncomfortable viewing and is sure to make a name for Bizzio.' - Ilford Recorder
'Rage (by the Argentinian author Sergio Bizzio) is something of a curious tale.
Set in the city of Buenos Aires it concerns the chance meeting of a poor labourer called Jose Maria and a maid named Rosa who works in a local mansion. So far so conventional as the two soon become lovers and conduct a romance away from the disapproving gaze of Rosa's employers Senor and Senora Blinder. However, it soon becomes apparent that the novel's central protagonist Jose Maria is a man with a ferocious and violent temper.
When he is bullied and belittled on a building site by his foreman he refuses to be intimidated but is unfairly fired for his defiance. He responds by brutally killing the foreman. On the run from the police he bids Rosa farewell but secretly finds refuge within the mansion where she works. Living on an empty floor of the building he lives on scraps of food stolen from the kitchen and remains invisible to its occupants. His bizarre concealed existence seriously warps his view of reality and he is driven to murder again when Rosa is raped by Alvaro, the son of her employers.
Jose Maria's presence within the mansion of the wealthy Argentinian family is an interesting literary device that offers the reader a fly on the wall portrait of the darker side of life within Buenos Aires. Class, alcoholism and failed relationships are just some of the themes explored by Bizzio in his searing examination of social breakdown. Ironically, whilst trying to elude detection Jose Maria is trapped in a kind of prison of his own making and his constant efforts to remain undiscovered results in a toe-curling level of tension.
The strange nature of his existence creates an often dreamlike narrative so it is therefore fitting and appropriate that Rage is soon to be a film by Guillermo Del Toro, the director of Pan's Labyrinth. Stylish, original and disturbing, this tense erotic thriller will leave you wondering whether you closed the bathroom window after all. Check again.' - Crime Time

'Rage, by Argentinean writer Bizzio, begins as straight dirty realism but changes gear, four chapters in, to become a fable. Jose Maria, a construction worker wanted for killing his boss, hides on an empty floor of the Buenos Aires mansion where his lover, Rosa, works as a maid, and observes her degradation at the hands of the rich family that employs her. Remaining there for years, he prowls about the house, makes telephone calls, swipes food from the kitchen, educates himself with books from the library, and intervenes, violently, to avenge his girl; yet, miraculously, he remains unnoticed. As an extended metaphor for the decline of a social class, the mistreatment of the have-nots and the resentment that this brings in its wake, it's fairly cumbersome and, because we don't have much sense of the world outside the house, occasionally baffling.'

- Guardian
'This unnerving novel from Buenos Aires, translated with punch and pace by Amanda Hopkinson, starts out in a vein of hard-boiled Latin American noir but then moves - in every sense - into a very strange place indeed. Borderline-psychotic building worker José María kills his site foreman and hides out in the creepy mansion where his passionate but innocent lover Rosa works as a put-upon maid. Invisible to all, "María" snoops on his unwitting hosts and their toxic bourgeois lifestyle - undermined by Argentina's cash crisis. Yet inner demons count for more than social critique as Bizzio shuns easy showdowns and delves into the attic of a disturbed mind.' - The Independent
'In Buenos Aires, laborer Jose Maria and mansion servant Rosa meet and fall in love. However, they conceal their romance from her censorious employers Senor and Senora Blinder. When his foreman Dali calls him names, Jose confronts his boss and is fired he feels unjustly as his superior started the incident. In a rage, Jose kills Dali violently.
The police seek Jose who tells his beloved Rosa he must leave the city. However, instead of going far away from Buenos Aires, Jose hides inside the huge mansion in an empty area. He watches the owners and their son Alvaro to insure they treat his beloved appropriately while clandestinely stealing food. When Alvaro rapes Rosa, Jose in a rage kills him.
This is an odd but exhilarating thriller that sort of feels like taking Hitchcock's Rear Window and relocating it in Argentina. The violent hero is for the most part like a ghost or the comic book Watcher as he keenly observes the goings on inside his small world (self-prison) mansion. This is Jose's tale as his raging mind enables readers to ironically "view" the darker side of society.' - MBR Bookwatch
'The adjective that comes to mind when considering Sergio Bizzio's novel Rage, (Bitter Lemon Press, 2009), is Ballardian. That may seem like praise, but it's hard to say. Ballard's novels are novels of disconnection and alienation, of men and women who are ciphers even to themselves, drifting through the modern world distanced from any real human connections by technology and the strange, solitary, sanitized nature of modern life. In short, Ballard was preoccupied with the death of community, and the great lengths people will go to to feel something, anything. As such, they are often difficult to read. They're certainly not what Graham Greene would have labeled "entertainments."
While, Rage, is a novel of isolation, similar to say, Concrete Island, where a man is stranded in a secret world on an island in the middle of a highway, it is also shot through with a Marxist critique of a decaying society where the gap between the rich and the poor is so large that the poor can, quite literally, disappear in the huge, empty homes of the doomed rich. It is also a novel of strong emotions, as the title implies, and strong emotions are often lacking in Ballard's work.
Jose Maria, a construction worker, falls in love with Rosa, the beautiful, but poor housekeeper of a rich Argentine family. At first, things are going well, as the two find time to be together, but then Jose Maria kills his foreman in a fit of rage and goes into hiding. He picks, as his hiding spot, the huge home of Rosa employers, where he takes up residence in a room no one uses. In his new role as fugitive and voyeur, Jose Maria spies on his former lover as well as the family for whom she works. He learns their secrets, and witnesses their bad behavior. He uses the home's second line to sneak secret phone calls to Rosa, but will not tell her his whereabouts.
He does adopt a role as her protector and avenger, however. When one family member rapes her, Jose Maria kills him and tries to make it look like an accident. The family quickly covers it up to prevent disgrace. When Rosa's new boyfriend knocks her up and refuses to take responsibility, Jose Maria sneaks out of the house and murders him as well. From there, he takes up the improbable role of invisible father, forcing a shady relative to deliver money to Rosa, and sneaking time with the baby once he is born.
Of course, Jose Maria can't hide from Rosa forever. Their reunion, and the end of the book overall, are somewhat puzzling. Without getting into spoilers, it's a little difficult to decipher Jose Maria's fate is supposed to mean. Then again, maybe that's just another way Bizzio is similar to Ballard.' - Independent Crime
'This surprisingly moving novel shows that in the hands of the right author almost any setup can be invested with depth and emotion. Construction worker José María Negro falls for Rosa Verga, a housemaid for an affluent Buenos Aires family, whom he meets at a grocery. Their relationship blossoms, despite Negro's struggles to control his explosive temper. His anger gets the best of him, unfortunately, and he bludgeons his foreman to death. Negro comes up with the idea of squatting on the upper floor of the villa where his lover works, and lives vicariously through his observations of Verga and her employer's family. Remarkably, Bizzio manages to make the creepy voyeur sympathetic, despite his murderous nature and his growing detachment from reality. The powerful prose and characters make a strong case for English translations of the Argentinian author's six other novels. The forthcoming film adaptation by Guillermo del Toro should boost sales.' - Publishers Weekly
'Protagonist José María has committed a heinous crime. Prone to violence and hungry for sex, María is accidentally self-imprisoned in the estate of the Blinders (Rosa, the maid, is María's former lover), placing him flush against the sordid activities of the household. Murder, rape, pregnancy, theft-Sergio Bizzio spares no vice in his rendering of the Blinder compound and its inhabitants. Rosa and María's relationship, begun innocently and lovingly enough, struggles to survive in the midst of this misfortune. It's no accident that Guillermo del Toro's decision to render Rage, Bizzio's sixth novel, as a film is plastered on the novel's front cover, back cover, and interior: watching María observe (and commit) act after debaucherous act will surely yield a sensational, gripping movie.
As a novel, Rage perhaps dwells erroneously long in the confines of María's mind-one learns only scraps of the outside world in both time and place, and as a result the book seems to float outside of its setting. The story at times endeavors to comment on the sociopolitical climate of Argentina, but merely flirts with this intention. "[María] knew who was president, " the narrator states well into the novel, "because he'd heard his name used, but this was now so long ago he was unsure whether he was still in power. " Television is the only source of information about the world, and the reader is granted only scant instances of respite from María's mind and eyes. At times, this lends Rage the sensation of gratuitousness, especially as the violence and sex become more senseless towards the novel's end.
A hyper-sensational examination of a family and culture in decay, Rage's Blinder family recalls Faulkner's Compsons in the family's inability to recognize its own slide into despair. Bizzio crafts a story not meant for the faint of heart, but one that treats its subject without once flinching from its depravity.' - ForeWard

'Excellent films and wonderful novels have arrived in recent years from Argentina. Bizzio is a new discovery with his novel Rage, soon to be a film noir by Guillermo del Toro, the director of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy and a tale that blends social fable with dreamlike fantasy. It is a portrait etched in acid of a Buenos Aires society menaced by economic and political crisis. Without value judgement but with light irony, Bizzio reveals the ugly secrets of a family, seen through the eyes of his naïve squatter. The imagery is often blinding and the dialogue pitch-perfect.'

- Le Temps
'Rage centers around José María, a forty year old construction worker, and Rosa, a twenty-five year old maid. They have an affair. One day, after José María is sacked after an argument with his foreman, he comes around to the house where she works; when her employers, Señor and Señora Blinder, come home, he only pretends to leave but actually sneaks upstairs and holes up there: it's a vast house, with many unusued rooms and overlooked corners. And he really holes up there: without anyone, even Rosa, knowing he simply stays there, only sneaking down for food and sometimes spying on the household.
The foreman was murdered, and José María is the prime suspect, so he has good reason for staying out of sight, but he doesn't dare reveal his whereabouts to anyone, even Rosa. He's in it for the long haul, too: he makes himself (relatively) comfortable, and his hidden stay eventually extends for years. It's a different kind of life he lives there, but he has what he needs to get by -- though cut off from the outside world he has little sense of what happens beyond these four walls.
José María keeps an eye on Rosa, but doesn't dare interfere much. Her employers aren't too hard on her, but one worthless son who comes to visit acts out of line, and at that point -- or at least later, when he can act unnoticed -- José María takes matters into his own hands. Rosa eventually appears to start a relationship with someone, and this leads José María to feel compelled to act again, too. Not much of a guardian angel, he can at least be a vengeful one .....
When he discovers there is more than one telephone line in the house José María takes to occasionally calling Rosa, carefully trying to hide his whereabouts. It's an odd short/long-distance relationship they keep up, but each, in their way remains devoted to the other.
José María is an unusual outcast-character: completely left to his own devices, he lives almost like on an island. There are others nearby, but there is no interaction between him and them; he must always try to avoid them -- even as he can't help but watch over them. Life goes on entirely without him -- only a rat is a companion of sorts, an animal in a similar position as he is.
Bizzio does quite a good job of describing José María's isolated life, from how he wanders around completely naked (when it's warm enough), to the hardships he faces when the household is on vacation, leaving him with practically no food to steal. José María lives outside history and outside society (and even outside this small household community, limited to the snatches of conversation he overhears and events he spies), and for the most part he is helpless, unable to act when it could matter (and setting things right in the only way he knows how -- enraged overreactions which nevertheless have practically no consequences). Isolated José María makes for an interesting character, and Bizzio sustains interest in his fate for the duration, but isn't able to do quite enough with the material and premise. One remains curious enough to see where things go (and what happened), but the payoff isn't ever quite big or haunting enough; ultimately Rage falls a bit short as both social (class) allegory and psychological thriller (with Bizzio vacillating between the two, unable to make up his mind exactly what he wants the book to be).' - Complete Review
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