Reviewed by Lawrence Manalastas
THE LIVING INFINITE
By Chantel Acevedo
280 pp. Europa Editions.
At the heart of Chantel Acevedo’s historical novel, The Living Infinite, is a manuscript that begs to see the light of day. That it was authored by no less than an Infanta of Spain does not exempt it from the scrutiny and mercy of a prospective publisher. And regardless of its merits, unless it gets the nod and goes to print, it is nothing more than mere scraps of paper, full of unheeded words and untold stories.
This element in the narrative comes across as a literary symbolism that runs parallel with the story of Princess Eulalia herself, the woman behind the subject manuscript, and by whom the novel is largely inspired. Being the daughter of monarchs inevitably puts her under the public’s prying eye, and in keeping with the ways of the House of Bourbon, as well as for the preservation of its noble repute, she must conform to a certain set of decorums befitting a royal, which she, in turn, finds all too constraining. Before long, she assumes a defiant stance towards social conventions and the dictates of aristocratic law. And like the captive birds her mother owns, she ventures to set herself loose from the palace walls, discover the world beyond them, find her voice and place in it, and come to be her own person.
The Living Infinite is a book about freedom, destiny, and endless possibilities. It is about escape and breaking free — first from our self-made cages, and then from all other sorts of confinements. It shows us, through Eulalia’s privileged perspective, that no matter our circumstances in life, it is our common birthright to be free, and this freedom allows and empowers us to pursue a destiny of our own choice and making.
Acevedo has made the right decision in doing away with The Milk Brother and settling for The Living Infinite as the final title of this book. Borrowed from the closing lines of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, it lends an adventurous tone to the novel, and more than justifies the many voyages undertaken therein, nautical or otherwise:
“The sea is everything. […] It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides. The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the living infinite.”
Eulalia has come long, long way — from her gilded cage in Madrid, to revolutionary Cuba, to New Age America, and back to a crumbling Europe — to discover the true meaning of freedom and ultimately, her self. Her journeys and experiences have remade her. In her own words, what she considers the happiest days of her childhood (and perhaps, her life) were those spent in exile, away from the glamour as well as the ignominy of royalty. True to her name, she has spoken her mind out, unfettered her thoughts, and let the world know her story. And most certainly, her words and her wisdom shall keep on resonating through the infinite sea of time.
The Living Infinite by Chantel Acevedo is available at select Fully Booked Stores. To reserve a copy, email us at email@example.com.
Back in high school, Lawrence has had a fancy for Shakespearean sonnets, and contributed a few of his own to the school paper. He initially aspired to be a poet, but ended up writing prose instead. He lives by the river.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]