Costalegre by Courtney Maum
English | 2019 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 6.5 Mb
Costalegre : Sinuous and striking, heartbreaking and strange, Costalegre is heavily inspired by the real-life relationship between the heiress Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen. Acclaimed author Courtney Maum triumphs with this wildly imaginative and curiously touching story of a privileged teenager who has everything a girl could wish for except for a mother who loves her back.
It is 1937, and Europe is on the brink of war. In the haute-bohemian circles of Austria, Germany, and Paris, Hitler is circulating a most-wanted list of “cultural degenerates”—artists, writers, and thinkers whose work is deemed antithetical to the new regime. To prevent the destruction of her favorite art (and artists), the impetuous American heiress and modern art collector, Leonora Calaway, begins chartering boats and planes for an elite group of surrealists to Costalegre, a mysterious resort in the Mexican jungle, where she has a home.
The story of what happens to these artists when they reach their destination is told from the point of view of Lara, Leonora’s neglected 15-year-old daughter, who has been pulled out of school to follow her mother to Mexico. Forced from a young age to cohabit with her mother’s eccentric whims, tortured lovers, and entourage of gold-diggers, Lara suffers from emotional, educational, and geographical instability that a Mexican sojourn with surrealists isn’t going to help. But when she meets the outcast Dadaist sculptor Jack Klinger, a much older man who has already been living in Costalegre for some time, Lara thinks she might have found the love and understanding she so badly craves.
“Mother snapped up, and it started. Actually, it’s not a snap, when she gets going; it’s slow and cool and all the more frightening for its coolness and its slowness.
“Your colleagues are not starving,” she said, scoop of spoon, a slurp. “They’re in second-class cabins cavorting in some social hall on top of the Atlantic. Hardly a great hardship, I should say. And in any case”—the spoon was put to rest, and I’d forgotten breathing—“the staff comes with the house.”
They come with the house, and they go with the house too. I thought of the people left behind in Paris, all of the staff there. Henri the driver, not brought because he’d have nothing to drive here, and the girl in her ironed navy uniform who never looked at me, because we’re the same age.
“Open the prisons! Disband the armies! Bring them to our table!” Legrand roared.
Mother sighed here, and so I shall make proof of it: she doesn’t always love him. Hetty was stricken with panic. C. worked through the wine.
C.—“Perhaps if there weren’t so many, is the thing.”
Caspar (who had returned from the kitchen, a wet patch on his breast)— “It’s despicable. Being served.”
Mum—“Really, I think you’d all be far more uncomfortable if you had to share your meal with staff. What, will Baldomero translate?”
Baldomero—“I, for one, find it positively luscious to be served.”
Konrad—“Perhaps you dine alone, then. In your tower . . .”
Legrand—“We are Europeans. Surely we can cook.”
Mum—“I’m an American. And I can’t. You can send the staff away as far as Paraguay. I’d still have to pay. Who’s going to bat your sheets out every evening? You? Sleep with scorpions. Be my guest. Ah.” The coolness and the slowness. The stem of a glass, held. “You already are.”