Vol. XXII, #3 Louis Zukofsky / Nicholas Mosley / Coleman Dowell
Review of Contemporary Fiction
The Club of Angels, by Luis Fernando Verissimo
reviewed by Chad W. Post
Trans. Margaret Jull Costa. New Directions, 2002. 135 pp. $21.95.
Luis Fernando Verissimo’s first novel to be translated into English centers on the Beef Stew Club, a group of ten well-off Brazilian gastronomes who meet once a month for a special feast. A year before the novel opens, Ramos, the club’s spiritual leader, supposedly dies of AIDS, throwing the club into shambles. (The final meal that year devolves into several hostile arguments and ends with a fat dancing man cradling a bottle of cognac and proclaiming that he is the biggest pile of shit in Brazil.) With the next year of meals about to begin, the club is prepared to disband when the “villain” Lucídio appears. Daniel, the author of the book we’re reading, meets Lucídio in a wine shop and tells him about the club and their troubles. After Lucídio makes Daniel the best omelet of his life, they decide that Lucídio will cook for the club’s next gathering. Beginning with that dinner, Lucídio proceeds to kill off each member of the club in alphabetical order by preparing their favorite meal, then allowing the chosen club member to gorge himself on one extra serving laced with poison. After the first two deaths, the group catches on to what’s happening, yet rather than prevent Lucídio from offing their entire club, the group pushes onward to the end, knowing when their time is up, enjoying their chosen meal with an almost orgasmic pleasure, and always choosing to consume that final tainted portion. The reader eventually does find out about Lucídio’s reasons for wanting to kill off the Beef Stew Club—revenge against another member—but that doesn’t answer the question of why these members allow themselves to be poisoned, a question that lends a certain allegorical weight to the novel, which concludes with the narrator reciting “more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more.”