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Optic Nerve Reviews

Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza, Thomas Bunstead

Optic Nerve

Maria Gainza, Thomas Bunstead

4.57 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Harvill Secker
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 31 Jan 2019
ISBN: 9781787300279

'Whenever I'm in survival mode I find myself magnetised by museums and galleries, like people running for air raid shelters in wartime. The narrator of Optic Nerve is an Argentinian woman whose obsession is art. The story of her life is the story of the paintings, and painters, who matter to her.

4 stars out of 5
10 Feb 2019

"quietly revelatory"

Taking us down the byways of artistic lives while baring aspects of her own, it is all quietly revelatory, and often fascinatingly so, with further cultural weight gained by the pulling in of an eclectic bunch of writers, from Maupassant and TS Eliot to Anthony Powell and AS Byatt. We might be in the same universe as a Calvino or Borges, but with much (much) less heavy lifting to do.


5 stars out of 5
Amy Sackville
2 Feb 2019

"restrained, funny, by turns (and at once) luminous and melancholy"

restrained, funny, by turns (and at once) luminous and melancholy... The text moves fluently between art criticism and history, biography, anecdote, memory and the imagined past... It becomes richer and more complex, until a self-portrait of the narrator emerges... culminating in something quite unexpected, which loops us back to the start and casts new light on the pall of anxiety and sadness that has shaded the text... We are left with a profound inquiry into the place and function of art...

5 stars out of 5
Johanna Thomas-Corr
28 Jan 2019

"a seductively clever debut novel"

A novel about the experience of perception could easily have ended up wishy-washy, but Gainza keeps the book rooted in human experience: fear of pain, of disillusionment, of parenthood, of flying in a plane and dying. She describes her painters and their work with maturity and a wry wit; her prose, adroitly translated by Thomas Bunstead, is muscular and refreshingly free of international art speak... Gainza is a writer who feels immediately important. I felt like a door had been kicked open in my brain, which is just the kind of bracing experience you need at the start of the year. Her next novel, Black Light, has already been published in Spanish. I hope they hurry up with the translation.