Permafrost by Eva Baltasar (tr. Julia Sanches)

blue cover with woman resting head on hand, lying against furry blanket

a nutshell: written by a Catalan poet, this debut novel chases the erratic thoughts of a gay suicidal narrator as she flits from one place (or person) to another

a line: “We’d met by chance, and if there’s one thing I believe in, it’s chance. Despite the Herculean efforts of new religions to deny it, chance continues to exist”

an image: almost too many to choose from! I was especially moved by how the narrator describes doubt (fanned by her parents) as the first chink in the permafrost, that is, the thick layers of defence mechanisms she built to survive

a thought: perhaps contrary to expectations, this book manages to be both fiercely funny and emotively frail – I found it a compulsive read

a fact: in her illuminating afterword, Sanches notes that Baltasar’s story began as a prompt in a therapy session and spiralled into a fictional work from there, which sheds light on Permafrost‘s ‘searching’ quality

want to read Permafrost? visit here

Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf (tr. Mara Faye Lethem)

a nutshell: a pure expanse of curiosity about polar exploration conceals, at first, the most pressing exploration in this book: selfhood, in the midst of challenging family relations

a line: “it’s in relationships, and not in places, that we rest”

an image: Kopf reveals her secret thought: all pools are interconnected, and this same water filters through us – making up 70% of our bodies – while the dry 30% of our bodies renews every 7 years; the only continuous part of us is our history

a thought: the narrator’s reflections on growing up with an autistic brother resonated strongly with me as the sister to an autistic brother myself – at one point she says she had to be an easy presence, independent, and describes a thin layer of ice forming between her and the others, almost paralleling her brother’s attitude

a fact: the earliest one in the book stuck with me – the word ‘Arctic’ comes from the Greek word ‘árktikos’ meaning ‘near the bear’ while ‘Antarctic’ is from ‘antárktikos’, ‘the place with no bears’, but rather penguins

 

want to read Brother in Ice? visit here