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

Small Beauty by jia qing wilson-yang

a nutshell: this is a stunningly understated contemplation on grief, queerness & race, which quietly bruises as it nudges along its way

a line: “These interactions feel like a mix of coffee and booze, the warmth of recognition and the anxiety of direct attention. She is unsettled by the host of uncertainties that comes with being recognised as a trans woman by a room full of strangers”

an image: every page of wilson-yang’s writing holds some element of beauty; at one point, she pauses on the peaceful black sky in rural Canada – not the ‘unfinished’ night of the city, but stars spread throughout with ‘the appearance of longing’

a thought: for Mei, the main protagonist, all encounters are fraught with complication – one painful instance is how, after she’s assaulted, a passerby’s expression twists from pity to disgust as she looks more closely

a fact: this book won the 2017 Lambda Literary Award for Best Transgender Fiction

want to read Small Beauty? visit here

The Wind That Lays Waste by Selva Almada (tr. Chris Andrews)

The Wind That Lays Waste

a nutshell: this highly charged, palpable prose is ignited by the sparks thrown off a heady encounter between a preacher, his daughter, a mechanic and his assistant in the wilds of northern Argentina

a line: “But Leni has no lost paradise to revisit. Her childhood was very recent but her memory of it was empty.”

an image: I found the omniscient narrator’s passage about the reverend’s sermons deeply unsettling, with the escalating intrusions of Christ’s tongue, finger, tongue until the climactic disgorging of the slimy black Devil-infused fabric

a thought: through its potency, this story carried me into a world profoundly different to the one I inhabit – immersing me for several hours in belief systems & ways of life so far from my own (a very useful exercise given how much time I spend in a filter bubble)

a fact: according to a 2017 survey, 76% of Argentina’s population is Christian – 66% Roman Catholic, 10% Evangelical Protestant; last year’s failure of the bill to legalise abortion highlighted the enduring power of the church in Argentinian politics

 

want to read The Wind That Lays Waste? visit here

[PS. big thanks to Charco Press for the copy!]