Empty Words

A novel by Mario Levrero, translated by Annie McDermott

May 21, 2019 • 5 x 7.75 • 152 pages • 978-1-56689-546-0

From a legendary cult figure in Latin American literature, the story of a writer who obsessively observes his own handwriting in search of answers about his identity.

An eccentric novelist begins to keep a notebook of handwriting exercises, hoping that if he’s able to improve his penmanship, his personal character will also improve. What begins as a mere physical exercise becomes involuntarily colored by humorous reflections and tender anecdotes about living, writing, and the sense—or nonsense—of existence.

About the Author

Mario Levrero was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1940 and died there in 2004. Levrero was a photographer, bookseller, comics scriptwriter, humorist, crossword author, and creator of brain games. In his later years, he directed a literary workshop. Empty Words is his first novel translated and published in English.

Annie McDermott’s translations from Spanish and Portuguese have appeared in Granta, the White Review, Asymptote, Two Lines, and World Literature Today, among others. Her translation of The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero is forthcoming from Coffee House Press and And Other Stories.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


“A lighthearted wisdom beats in every sentence of Empty Words, a little masterpiece by Mario Levrero, who is, to me, one of the funniest and most influential writers of recent times. This book might change your life, or at least your handwriting.” —Alejandro Zambra

“We are all his children.” —Álvaro Enrigue

“An eccentric, funny, and original novel: philosophical but playful, short but obsessive, ironic but desperate, and theoretical but intimate.” —Dana Spiotta

Praise for Mario Levrero  

“Levrero is Kafka’s ‘everyday’ flip side, a shadow of Camus with a comical take.” —El País

“Style and imagination like Levrero’s are rare in Spanish-language literature.” —Antonio Muñoz Molina

“Mario Levrero is a genius.” —Enrique Fogwill

“Levrero is an author who challenges the canonical idea of Latin American literature. If you really want to complete the puzzle of our tradition, you must read him.” —Granta

“Mario Levrero is the great discovery of the century for Latin American literature.” —Revista Eñe

“Reading him draws us into experiencing the order of the irreversible, we leave our reading and encounter another reality on account of the simple fact that something inside us has changed, that our way of seeing is no longer the same. The man who never died.” —Germán Beloso, Arcadia