Quizzes pertaining to Once in a Lifetime
1. What is the connection between a philanthropic Briton and Che Guevara?
(Could it be the same as the connection between Jesus Christ and King David?)
2. How can a heroine exist yet not exist?
(How can her absence be felt more than her presence?)
3. What do angels have to do with the Internet and cyberwar?
(Aren’t they both ethereal and insubstantial?)
4. Unlike the novel’s hero, were you aware that the Fourth World War has started?
(The author himself was not. This is Subcomandante Marcos’s theory.)
5. How can a letter addressed to “God Almighty, Western Wall, Jerusalem” lead to the notorious “Kaibil” Guatemalan counter-insurgency corps?
(And yet it does, however indirectly and circuitously.)
6. What compelled the author to risk his life, and that of the two squires who escorted him, for the sake of the novel?
(Bookish research isn’t enough. Road and picaresque novels demand the author’s immersion in the locales, no matter how dangerous.)
7. Why does the author forewarn the reader with: “Some names in this work have been changed; some characters and incidents are fictitious; the chronology of some events has been rearranged”?
(Contemporary fiction meets historical fiction; ancient myths go hand in hand with chronicles. Some things are imagined, others are not. You decide which are and which aren’t.)
8. Why would the monkey-boys in Quito eat a truckload of plastic kazoos?
(Who are the monkey-boys? Surely, there is no reference to the natives?)
9. How can a San Pedro cactus be associated to amnesia, and to an AK-47 Kalashiknov?
(In mysterious ways?)
10. Why should the two main characters both wilfully pursue something they dread?
(Hindsight vision is 20/20. Most mortals, not having forward vision, do just that, and pursue their boredom if not their doom. The two main characters do know that what they pursue they dread. Yet, they cannot rebel to plans not drawn by mortal hands.)
11. Multinational pharmaceutical companies; active and dormant volcanoes; motorcycling and revolution—don’t they all seem utterly unrelated?
(Isn’t everything interconnected?)
12. Catalysts, reactions, chain reactions—how can they apply to a narrative?
(There is a chemical as well as alchemical thrust in the narrative. The chemical one is quickly explained, yet delusional; the alchemical, engenders a spiral with a transformation at the end.)
13. How could the most passionate love be an unconsummated love?
(“Heroic love is a torment, because it does not rejoice in the present as animal love does, but in the future and the absent.” [Giordano Bruno]).
14. How can an irreversible precipitation lead to an ascent?
(How can the phoenix rise from its own ashes?)
The author and his squire on location, 14,000 feet up in the Andean páramo of Ecuador.
Copyright © Guido Mina di Sospiro.
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ONCE IN A LIFETIME