Only about three percent of all books published in the United States are works in translation, and many of those books don’t necessarily garner a lot of mainstream press. As part of our ongoing series highlighting intriguing international fiction, here is a glimpse of some recent, interesting novels from Latin American authors.
A duo of slightly surreal books from Argentina are being published in this first part of 2017. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin is a novel of creeping psychological menace, related via tense conversation fragments between a sick woman in the hospital and a child as they circle around a story of toxic chemicals and family desperation. Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez is a collection of twelve eerie, weird short stories that verge on the horrific, set throughout Argentina. Check out either – or both – of these books if you’re a fan of Julio Cortázar, Shirley Jackson, or Jorge Luis Borges. For an Argentinian novel with a different tone, try Hernán Ronsino’s Glaxo, a compact and claustrophobic tale of rural noir that weaves together four storylines, past and present, all centered around a small town and a factory in the middle of the pampas.
On to a pair from Mexico. In Umami by Laia Jufresa, twelve-year-old Ana spends her days immersed in Agatha Christies novels. When she decides to plant a garden in a shared courtyard she also unearths the past, prompting neighbors delve into secrets long held. The Gringo Champion by Aura Xilonen is told through the stream of consciousness narration of Liborio, a lover of books and boxing, as he details his flight from Mexico and efforts to establish a life in the US. There are shades here of Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Reputations by Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez centers on Javier Mallarino, a political cartoonist who has taken down corrupt politicians, in a novel that examines the fine line between satire and slander.
Alejandro Zambra is a prolific Chilean writer. His latest, Multiple Choice, is a playful, poetic novella told in the format of a standardized test that prompts the reader to take part in creating the narrative. Also from Chile is writer and cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. In Albina and the Dog-men Jodorowsky realizes a world in which sensuality turns humans into animals. Involving an albino giantess, a criminal dentist, a sacred cactus, giant hares, and oh-so-much more, Jodorowsky invites you on a wild, cinematic ride.
Chronicle of the Murdered House by Brazilian author Lúcio Cardoso – originally published in 1959 but with its first English translation this year – is a gothic gay melodrama involving a decaying old world family, a cross-dressing son, and a recently married-in member of the family who brings a critical eye. There’s also a new novel from international bestselling Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, The Spy, inspired by the life and death of Mata Hari.
~ posted by Andrea G.
This post is part of our Intriguing International Fiction series, an irregularly timed ongoing run of posts highlighting interesting fiction by international authors. Find the first installment here.