Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
Trust, the second novel by celebrated Hernán Diaz, is a dazzling example of a writer who is brilliantly in control of a complicated narrative which portrays the life of an immensely wealthy and successful magnate, introduced as Benjamin Rash in a novel by Harold Vanner, called ‘Bonds’.
The book needs its considerable length to regard Rash from different angles. There is the first narrative in which Rash is shown to possess an uncanny intuition coupled with a mathematical expertise that leads to his mastering the wiles of playing the Wall Street stock market and becoming the USA’s wealthiest man. He remains remote while becoming legendary and his lonely existence is eventually enhanced by an equally clever woman, Helen, very sympathetic to Rash’s temperament. They marry.
Even his enviable circumstances were not immune to tragedy and terrible suffering….
In the second section, an autobiography is suggesting corrections to the first. It is rather pompous and often a paragraph has single words or notes attached, both interesting and unsatisfactory.
This part, labelled ‘My Life’ (by Andrew Bevel – the real Benjamin Rash), is a marvel of writing in the manner in which Diaz assumes a very different voice. The financier is overwhelmingly self-serving in his attitude to adjusting the public image of himself. It reminds us that the reliability of memoirs must be questioned.
Decades prior, Ida Patenza was the ghost writer for Bevel. She now holds the pen; and in her essay, which is autobiographical, her version is shaped by the perspective of the time lapse. She had met the famous financier/philanthropist years ago, so this account reminds the reader how difficult it may be to accurately recall historical fact, untouched by a subjective slant.
Trust’s final part by Andrew’s wife, Mildred, explores complicated testimonies connected to the famous man. It is brief but clearly gives a glimpse of how it possible to polish one’s public image provided one has enormous wealth. Together with the previous sections, a compelling mystery emerges. Privilege, power and the real truth are mingled to create a world that very few experience. Ultimately, the real Andrew Bevel is a baffling puzzle.
Trust provokes the question of the veracity and reliability of autobiography and indeed, history. It therefore has so much to admire and those who give it the necessary attention will most likely agree that it is one of the finest novels recently to be published.
Hernán Diaz was born in Argentina and now lives in New York. His latest book is predominantly set in the early twentieth century. He has brilliantly created the life style of the absurdly wealthy, and the luxury that strata enjoy – the constant extravagant parties, travel, mansions, culture and this power that accompanies their immeasurable fortunes bestows everything desirable, except health.
Trust demands a committed focus by its readers, but undeniably is a marvel in concept, skill and originality, and particularly in ‘Bonds’, it is graced by his clever wit.
by Hernán Diaz
ISBN 978 152907 450 5