ElHombreTrajeGris_PostThe Man in the Grey Flannel Suit
Sloan Wilson
370 pages

At a moment in his life, Tom Rath decides that the time has come to forget everything and start over from scratch. He tells himself that the fact that one has killed a lot of men in the war does not mean anything, because the time has come to have children and earn money, dress properly, be affectionate towards his wife, admire his boss and learn not to worry. Tom Rath is the man in the grey flannel suit, the main character of a novel that would end up defining the fifties in the United States. That moment when materialistic aspirations became the high point of the modern man’s life; that man in a suit, like Tom, who works in New York and lives in residential areas like Connecticut.

But Tom cannot be so cynical, although sometimes he wishes he could. He is without a doubt a likeable character. His life is at a crossroads: he feels the pressure to earn more money in order to have a better life, or at least in a bigger house and with better furniture, so he leaves his job in a charitable foundation and starts working for a big corporation, where he assists the company’s president in a new project. His conformity and the evening Martinis he shares with his wife Betsy are his best assets to move forward and not look back. But, unlike the characters of Mad Men, Tom does not take pleasure in creating needs with shitty slogans, all the opposite, even though the world he now lives in seems to expect of him exactly that: fake smiles and commercial ingenuity. On the other hand an unexpected reencounter causes his past as a paratrooper in World War II to come back to haunt him, with the memory of days where he would love and want to kill himself almost with the same ease and intensity. When he has the time he will also have to deal with the incipient real-estate speculators who are delirious with the possibilities of good ploys due to a house his grandmother left him as inheritance.

Because of it all, the ghosts that those who survived barbarity have to carry, the description of a crowded New York that was beginning to build a world based on consumerism, the aspirations of comfort and turning the page and the small life of a man who doubts and does not know how to be honest with his boss while gambling the future of an apparently happy family between lawyers and sharks; for all that, as I was saying, this novel transcends genres down to becoming a generational classic, a classic that captured a moment and a world, thanks to the great power of observation and narrative talent of its author. Reading it is a real delight.