“As silent as a fish,” they say of people who cannot or will not talk for whatever reason. And the protagonists of Marcelo Figuera’s latest work move through the novel like fish in an Aquarium: constrained in the prison of their own speechlessness. One of them is Ulises Rosso, who sets out for Israel to look for his children, which his wife has taken away from him. He feels like a monster who destroys all relationships, yet he is powerless to change his situation. Arrived in a country where he is taken for a Palestinian because of his skin colour and treated accordingly, Ulises meets the artist Irit Rosenblum and falls in love. Her soul too has been caught up in a cocoon since she lost her husband in an Intifada attack. The two of them have no language in common, and yet they understand one another.
Parallel to this story we follow Miriam and David, a couple who spent years trying for a child, only to lose their baby after a premature birth. She withdraws into a world of fish, which swim around like her “fish child” in its amniotic fluid. The couple are drawn to the local aquarium over and over again – a habit that David keeps up even after his wife’s death, as a way to feel close to her.
And finally, the child Danny plays a role. Irit takes him in after he is found on the street. He plays dumb, rejects any physical contact and his only communication is through drawings, usually of fish. That gives Irit the idea of taking Danny to the aquarium – where they meet David.
Like in a play driven along in acts by the individual characters, like in a waltz in three tempos, Figueras has written a novel as dramatic as it is accomplished. He sketches out his character’s inability, regardless of their sex, age or cultural origin, to express themselves in words, yet without refusing communication and loving understanding in itself.
A wonderful book, dramatic, moving, scarred by pain and loss, complex and intense, yet beyond the unhappy end it has a much more important message: that of hope!