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Books By Megan McDowell
SHORTLISTED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE • NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • FINALIST: Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Ray Bradbury Prize, Kirkus Prize • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Oprah Daily, New York Public Library, Electric Lit, LitHub, Kirkus Reviews
Mariana Enriquez has been critically lauded for her unconventional and sociopolitical stories of the macabre. Populated by unruly teenagers, crooked witches, homeless ghosts, and hungry women, they walk the uneasy line between urban realism and horror. The stories in her new collection are as terrifying as they are socially conscious, and press into being the unspoken—fetish, illness, the female body, the darkness of human history—with bracing urgency. A woman is sexually obsessed with the human heart; a lost, rotting baby crawls out of a backyard and into a bedroom; a pair of teenage girls can’t let go of their idol; an entire neighborhood is cursed to death when it fails to respond correctly to a moral dilemma.
Written against the backdrop of contemporary Argentina, and with a resounding tenderness toward those in pain, in fear, and in limbo, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is Mariana Enriquez at her most sophisticated, and most chilling.
Alejandro Zambra's Ways of Going Home begins with an earthquake, seen through the eyes of an unnamed nine-year-old boy who lives in an undistinguished middleclass housing development in a suburb of Santiago, Chile. When the neighbors camp out overnight, the protagonist gets his first glimpse of Claudia, an older girl who asks him to spy on her uncle Raúl.
In the second section, the protagonist is the writer of the story begun in the first section. His father is a man of few words who claims to be apolitical but who quietly sympathized—to what degree, the author isn't sure—with the Pinochet regime. His reflections on the progress of the novel and on his own life—which is strikingly similar to the life of his novel's protagonist—expose the raw suture of fiction and reality.
Ways of Going Home switches between author and character, past and present, reflecting with melancholy and rage on the history of a nation and on a generation born too late—the generation which, as the author-narrator puts it, learned to read and write while their parents became accomplices or victims. It is the most personal novel to date from Zambra, the most important Chilean author since Roberto Bolaño.
But alongside the black magic and disturbing disappearances, these stories are fueled by compassion for the frightened and the lost, ultimately bringing these characters—mothers and daughters, husbands and wives—into a surprisingly familiar reality. Written in hypnotic prose that gives grace to the grotesque, Things We Lost in the Fire is a powerful exploration of what happens when our darkest desires are left to roam unchecked, and signals the arrival of an astonishing and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.
–Juan Gabriel Vasquez, author of The Sound of Things Falling and Reputations
A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He's not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.
Fever Dream is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale. One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language and translated into English for the first time, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange psychological menace and otherworldly reality in this absorbing, unsettling, taut novel.
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR
"Her most unsettling work yet — and her most realistic." --New York Times
Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, NPR, Vulture, Bustle, Refinery29, and Thrillist
A visionary novel about our interconnected present, about the collision of horror and humanity, from a master of the spine-tingling tale.
They've infiltrated homes in Hong Kong, shops in Vancouver, the streets of in Sierra Leone, town squares in Oaxaca, schools in Tel Aviv, bedrooms in Indiana. They're everywhere. They're here. They're us. They're not pets, or ghosts, or robots. They're real people, but how can a person living in Berlin walk freely through the living room of someone in Sydney? How can someone in Bangkok have breakfast with your children in Buenos Aires, without your knowing? Especially when these people are completely anonymous, unknown, unfindable.
The characters in Samanta Schweblin's brilliant new novel, Little Eyes, reveal the beauty of connection between far-flung souls—but yet they also expose the ugly side of our increasingly linked world. Trusting strangers can lead to unexpected love, playful encounters, and marvelous adventure, but what happens when it can also pave the way for unimaginable terror? This is a story that is already happening; it's familiar and unsettling because it's our present and we're living it, we just don't know it yet. In this prophecy of a story, Schweblin creates a dark and complex world that's somehow so sensible, so recognizable, that once it's entered, no one can ever leave.
Tracing a circular course that echoes Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Luis Sagasti’s second book to appear in English takes the guise of a musical scheherazade, recounting story after story, vibrating to celestial harmonies. From the music born of the sun to the music sent into space on the Voyager mission, from Rothko to rock music, from the composers of the concentration camps to a weeping room for Argentinian conscripts in the Falklands, A Musical Offering traverses the shifting sands of fiction and history.
An electrifying novel about illness, displacement, and what holds us together, by the author of Seeing Red
Ella is an astrophysicist struggling with her doctoral thesis in the “country of the present” but she is from the “country of the past,” a place burdened in her memory by both personal and political tragedies. Her partner, El, is a forensic scientist who analyzes the bones of victims of state violence and is recovering from an explosion at a work site that almost killed him. Consumed by writer’s block, Ella finds herself wishing that she would become ill, which would provide time for writing and perhaps an excuse for her lack of progress. Then she begins to experience mysterious symptoms that doctors find undiagnosable.
As Ella’s anxiety grows, the past begins to exert a strong gravitational pull, and other members of her family come into focus: the widowed Father, the Stepmother, the Twins, and the Firstborn. Each of them has their own experience of illness and violence, and eventually the systems that both hold them together and atomize them are exposed.
Lina Meruane’s Nervous System is an extraordinary clinical biography of a family, full of affection and resentment, dark humor and buried secrets, in which illness describes the traumas that can be visited not just upon the body, but on families and on the history of the countries—present and past—that we live in.
Named a best book of 2015 by NPR, The Boston Globe, and Electric Literature.
My Documents is the latest work from Alejandro Zambra, the award-winning Chilean writer whose first novel was heralded as the dawn of a new era in Chilean literature, and described by Junot Díaz as "a total knockout." Now, in his first short story collection, Zambra gives us eleven stories of liars and ghosts, armed bandits and young lovers—brilliant portraits of life in Chile before and after Pinochet. The cumulative effect is that of a novel—or of eleven brief novels, intimate and uncanny, archived until now in a desktop folder innocuously called "My Documents." Zambra's remarkable vision and erudition is on full display here; this book offers clear evidence of a sublimely talented writer working at the height of his powers.
Holed away in a cabin in the Pyrenees, the world-famous and enigmatic mathematician Alexander Grothendieck is furiously racing death to complete a final project. But what exactly is this monumental, mysterious undertaking? Why did a militant and one of the greatest geniuses of the twentieth century suddenly abandon politics and society altogether? As the reader pursues the answer to these questions, overlapping narratives emerge. On the one hand are the strange characters crowding the mathematician’s imagination: Chana Abramov, a woman obsessed with painting the same Mexican volcano a thousand times, Vladimir Vostokov, an anarchist in battle with technological modernity, and Maximiliano Cienfuegos, a simple man who will become the symbol for Europe’s restless political conscience. On the other is the protagonist’s life story, from the Russia of the October Revolution to the Mexico of the anarchic 1920s, from the Spanish Civil War to Vietnam, from France to the Caribbean islands. Out of this Borgesian web emerges a tragicomic allegory for the political arc of the past century, one that began addicted to political action and ended up hooked on big data.
Loosely based on a true story, Colonel Lágrimas is a world-spanning tour de force of history, politics, literature, mathematics, and philosophy that wears its learning lightly, resulting in an appealingly human story of the forces that have created the modern world.
"An intriguing and unforgettable verbal kaleidoscope." —Ricardo Piglia
“A wonderfully playful and poetic dialogue with the past, written with a wisdom, elegance, and generosity astonishing for a first novel.” —Chloe Aridjis, author of Book of Clouds and Asunder
Carlos Fonseca Suárez was born in Costa Rica in 1987 and grew up in Puerto Rico. His work has appeared in publications including The Guardian, BOMB, The White Review, and Asymptote. He currently teaches at the University of Cambridge and lives in London.
Despite their age gap, there's something childlike about Viejo that leads Casi to believe that he's not like the other men she's encountered, the "dangerous ones." But Viejo has a number of secrets in his past—all of which would be of grave concern to Casi's parents or any other adult who witnessed one of their rendezvous. As these secrets rise to the surface, the clock is ticking, the weather is growing cold and the school is untangling Casi's set of lies, setting up a moment where something has to give.
With spare, direct prose, Sara Mesa imbues these two outcasts with a great deal of warmth, raising questions about society's prejudices and assumptions, and creating a truly moving novel of an "inappropriate" relationship.
Just before the dawn of the new millennium, a curator at a New Jersey museum of natural history receives an unusual invitation from a celebrated fashion designer. She shares the curator’s fascination with the secrets of the animal kingdom—with camouflage and subterfuge—and she proposes that they collaborate on an exhibition, the nature of which remains largely obscure, even as they enter into a strange relationship marked by evasion and elision.
Seven years later, after the designer’s death, the curator recovers the archive of their never-completed project. During a long night of insomnia, he finds within the archive a series of clues about the true history of the designer’s family, a mind-bending puzzle that winds from Haifa, Israel, to bohemian 1970s New York to the Latin American jungles. As he follows this trail, the curator discovers a cast of characters whose own fixations interrogate the unstable frontiers between art, science, politics, and religion. An aging photographer, living nearly alone in an abandoned mining town where subterranean fires rage without end, creates miniature replicas of ruined cities. A former model turned conceptual artist becomes the star defendant in a trial over the very soul and purpose of art. A young indigenous boy receives a vision of the end of the world. Reality is a curtain, the curator realizes, and to draw it back is to reveal the theater of the obsessed.
Natural History is a portrait of a world trapped between faith and irony, tragedy and farce. An urgent and impressively ambitious novel in the tradition of Italo Calvino and Ricardo Piglia, it confirms Carlos Fonseca as one of the most daring writers of his generation.
The nine mesmerizing stories in Humiliation, translated from the Spanish by Man Booker International Prize finalist Megan McDowell, present us with a Chile we seldom see in fiction: port cities marked by poverty and brimming with plans of rebellion; apartment buildings populated by dominant mothers and voyeuristic neighbors; library steps that lead students to literature, but also into encounters with other arts—those of seduction, self–delusion, sabotage.
In these pages, a father walks through the scorching heat of Santiago’s streets with his two daughters in tow. Jobless and ashamed, he takes them into a stranger’s house, a place that will become the site of the greatest humiliation of his life. In an impoverished fishing town, four teenage boys try to allay their boredom during an endless summer by translating lyrics from the Smiths into Spanish using a stolen dictionary. Their dreams of fame and glory twist into a plan to steal musical instruments from a church, an obsession that prevents one of them from anticipating a devastating ending. Meanwhile a young woman goes home with a charismatic man after finding his daughter wandering lost in a public place. She soon discovers, like so many characters in this book, that fortuitous encounters can be deceptions in disguise.
Themes of pride, shame, and disgrace—small and large, personal and public—tie the stories in this collection together. Humiliation becomes revelation as we watch Paulina Flores’s characters move from an age of innocence into a world of conflicting sensations.