El asesino tímido / The Shy Assassin
Novel , 2018
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Literature Prize 2018
Built around suicide, which Camus considered the only truly serious philosophical problem, Clara Usón has written a novel based on her own history, full of humour, philosophy, and devastating revelations.
Clara Usón explores Sandra Mozarowski’s turbulent career as an actress in Spanish nude films in the 70s, and draws parallels with her own life. The actress died at the age of 18 after throwing herself off the balcony of her home, although rumour has it she was murdered by Spain’s intelligence services after being impregnated by King Juan Carlos. The author finds tragicomic resonances with her own process of self-destruction, and the complex relationship she maintained with her mother from childhood.
This is the true story of two women, two generations who come into conflict when the country’s reality changes with the advent of democracy, bringing down the curtain on the dark decades of Francoism. The mother is an alcoholic, cloistered in spite of herself in the domestic role assigned to women during the years of dictatorship. The daughter, like Sandra Mozarowski, is caught up in the years of liberation and excess, convinced the future belongs to her, never realizing it might be taken away.
“Because El asesino tímido (The Shy Assassin) is undoubtedly one of her most brilliant books, written in prose that manages to trap the reader from the first page…El asesino tímido confirms Usón as one of the best contemporary authors, but also makes us look inside ourselves, even if that means finding a reflection, an image that might be too real.” Víctor Fernández, La Razón
“If the novel, as Usón herself points out, is what Cervantes called "unleashed writing in which everything fits" (a true statement if ever there was one), there’s no doubt we’re dealing with a novel that deserves to be savoured by a good number of readers.” Ovidio Paredes, Huffington Post
“Clara Usón undertakes an open-heart self-portrait. At the same time, this intra-family history of Spain going from the [Franco] Regime to the Transition, with a hated mother and self-destructive daughter, also recounts the life of the young muse of nude films, Sandra Mozarovski, likely lover of King Juan Carlos, who died under suspicious circumstances. The secret of these digressions is resolved by Usón’s mastery as one of the greatest prose writers in recent years.” Babelia, 21 April 2018
“Full of deep reflections, between tragedy and comedy, the book reveals a mature craft.” El Mundo. Tendències, 19 April 18
“A pop novel where mysterious threads join the narrator to Mozarovski, Pavese and Wittgenstein to explain that there’s nothing more coherent than delirium.” Marta Sanz
"The author as a child, adolescent and young woman, not just a narrator and researcher, gradually takes ownership of the story until it culminates in the final revelation (becoming confessional, almost expiatory). This is undoubtedly the most outstanding chapter in a book true to Cervantes’s tradition of ‘unleashed writing’." Ana Rodríguez Fischer, Babelia
"A sensational book. Brave, surprising, wild and loving". Marta Sanz
"Irony, intrigue and tragedy go hand in hand in a work with which Clara Usón returns to show off a truly enviable narrative mastery". Forbes
"A strong combination; bitter in some parts and intriguing in many others. It won’t leave you indifferent". Fernando García, La Vanguardia
"Activating her own memory, she has managed to articulate an intimate portrait of the vital contradictions that define an entire generation when it comes to managing the failure of an illusion of change". Jaime Iglesias, Gara
"Plagued with reflections, between tragedy and comedy, the book reveals a mature voice". El Mundo
“A wonderful story.” Concita de Gregorio, La Repubblica
“An intense novel about life and our relationship with death; about growing up and learning to reflect upon the years of youthful recklessness with respect, in which we can find the presence of Ludwig Wittgenstein when he said that ‘only death gives meaning to life’.” ANSA, Cultura
“A book that talks about the thing we should silence, the ones we can’t say but that, in reality, are the only ones that matter.” Il Fatto Quotidiano
“Clara Usón is a brave writer as few are, powerful when handling images and words, acrobatic and ungraspable. We have no choice but to paraphrase her (and Pavese) —although now I am talking about life and not death—, when we find ourselves face to face with this novel, and we see our reflection in it”. Antonella Latanzi, Tuttolibri
“El asesino tímdo, by Clara Usón, is a little miracle”. Cristina Battocletti (Il Sole)
“Creative and experimental works such as El asesino tímido is what our age needs, which asks for literature to, above all, surprise the reader and to appear alive even at the expense of putting itself at risk”. Antonio Debenedetti (Corriere della Sera)