EMPTY SET, BY VERÓNICA GERBER BICECCI, TRANSLATED BY CHRISTINA MACSWEENEY
Empty Set is a marvel of form; Verónica Gerber Bicecci charts her narrator (also Verónica)’s struggle through a maze of confounding relationships with diagrammatic renderings of the same, offering a visual perspective on her subject that perfectly captures a young woman’s desperate search for connection and meaning in life’s looming trivialities. In short, pithy bursts, she offers up details of interactions with lovers, family, animals, and the dead, and everywhere she finds incomprehensible clues to a mystery whose very nature is itself unknown: the rings in trees, the gifts her cat brings her through the window, email chains, uncrackable codes in abstract paintings. Through Observation Reports, drawings, and bold strokes, Verónica attempts to organize “a set emptying out little by little. Disordered fragments. Correction: shards,” into linear narrative.
Though Empty Set may reduce Verónica’s world to labels and diagrams, the novel is anything but reductionist. Consistently innovative and heartrendingly reflective, Bicecci provides a satisfying slice-of-life story despite leaving so much unanswered. From the dropped pronouns in Christina MacSweeney’s artful translation to the mysterious absence of Verónica’s mother, we learn that “the things we can’t see don’t hide themselves in the shades of gray, or in the white or black, but on the fine line separating those two totalities.” Here is a reluctant testament to the fact that beginnings and ends are never as streamlined as we would like them to be; life is riddled with false starts and false summits, and exists only in the border lines that must be drawn to become visible.