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The first work by this celebrated Spanish author to appear in English, this dazzling seafaring tale spans four centuries of adventure and pays homage to literary greats such as Baudelaire, Melville, and Sebald As the 20th century draws to a close, a ship heads for Punta Arenas on the Straits of Magellan at Chile's southern tip. On board is Oliver Griffin, a man on an unusual quest. His journey is inspired by a photograph of his grandparents embracing a strange automaton which now resides in the Punta Arenas museum. This fearsome metal warrior is a 16th-century robot, a relic of a proposed mechanical army, commissioned by Philip II of Spain to guard the strait against the English. The automaton was discovered on Desolation Island by a grieving woman scouring the archipelago for the bodies of her shipwrecked husband and son. Griffin has long been fascinated by this place, where the Magellan Strait meets the Pacific, and spends his life drawing intricate maps of the island. With a host of characters both real and imaginary, this tale of discovery features countless stories spinning around its central axis of the extraordinary automaton. Taking in 16th-century wizardry, court politics, the modern shipping industry, the cinematic version of The Invisible Man, and personal letters and family photographs, this mesmerizing, original novel is a testament to man's insatiable desire for knowledge. This classic seafaring tale strikes at the heart of that eternal mysteryour obsession with the sea, as terrible as it is irresistible.
Adolfo García Ortega is a translator, a literary critic, a journalist, and the former editorial director of the Spanish publishing house Seix Barral. His critically acclaimed novels have won many prizes. Desolation Island won him the the Castilla y León Critic Award and is his first book to be translated into English.