Karina Sainz Borgo was born in Caracas in 1982 and has lived in Spain since 2006. She is a prolific cultural journalist, her novels – La hija de la española (2019), El tercer país (2021) – have had wide national and international acceptance. True to her principle that she has to renew herself in each novel so as not to fall into routine, in The Island of Doctor Schubert she reaches unprecedented and fascinating extremes. The action takes place in Mallorca and the islet of La Dragonera. It is a sea story. I am very afraid of the sea. I love it too. It attracts me with the same intensity with which I reject it ”, she has declared. Her readings are projected into her writing: The Odyssey, which accompanies us throughout the book, The Metamorphoses, by Ovid, or Conrad. She is an admirer of Don Quixote and feels a special attraction to Javier Marías, "the great writer of the 20th and 21st centuries", and the kingdom of Redonda and Berta Isla appear in the book as a tribute.
The title of the novel refers us to The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H.G.Wells. Very little is known about this surgeon and explorer. "Nothing in it is a definitive truth." What we know is thanks to what the clerk, interpreter and copyist of the siren songs left in writing in a newspaper that lends itself to speculation. On his part, Dr. Schubert has a library of unlimited content, which seems to compete with Borges's library of Babel, and where we find, among other things, epic poems and a copy of The Iliad signed by Homer. To which is added his book on endings, which seems to announce the end of the book.
The Berliner, Solferino's hero, introduced himself as a surgeon and owner of the island bequeathed to him by the Kaiser, and there we see him, in the year 13 of the new century, “on his balcony overlooking the end of the world”. A methodical man, "the inhabitants of the island adjusted the hands of their alarm clocks to those of Dr. Schubert's watch", as the inhabitants of Königsberg are said to have done when Kant went out for a walk. He carries a bag with fifty pearls, and one of them is kept under his tongue. He is knowledgeable of nether matters. Like Ada Colau from Barcelona, “the Berliner was more concerned with foreigners than with monsters”, something that could be fatal for the fate of the island.
The scribe who "became an interpreter and copyist without wanting to" is, with Dr. Schubert, a dominant presence. “The words of the drowned dragged her to the seas and archipelagos of the world”. She traveled to the south of Ireland and “arrived at the psychiatric hospital where the first mermaids were cured and where the undines go, stunned by the sound of the coins that tourists throw into all the fountains in the world at the same time”. She also always carries her bag of pearls. The first to arrive at the doctor's office is Tristán, “a grasshopper resulting from the intercourse between a Cyclops and a Viennese rocking chair”. He is responsible for the keys to the island and "composes serenades so that the mussels are not saddened."
On the island of Dr. Schubert "strange things happen." It is populated by sirens, furies, undines, lamias, dragons and cyclops, and its inhabitants turn the statues into living beings. The transformations, the metamorphoses, are continuous, and the same prose participates in the magical and the fabulous, and in the chronicles "none of this is entirely true, but not for that reason false." And at the end of the book we can exclaim, like Joachim Du Bellay: "Happy who like Ulysses / has had a good trip". And it is this intoxicating happiness that accompanies us throughout the book.