“I think political violence leaves scars, like a national PTSD,” Mariana Enriquez, said in an interview with Literary Hubin 2017. And, later in the same piece: “In general, I don’t think you can take the power back, not completely, but you can break the silence.” This Argentinian sensibility permeates the landscapes of Things We Lost in the Fire, via imagery that might in other hands seem both wilful and empty. I read the title story on a train journey, in tandem with Gore Capitalism, Sayak Valencia’s analysis of the “Endriago” subjectivity. The two texts seemed to complete one another quite naturally, threatening to unmask the single violent landscape that founds both. I might choose any of these stories as my favourite Enriquez. But let’s say–speaking of taking back the power–that it’s ‘Spiderweb’, and quote from it her description of a peacock’s tail: “the feathers with their eyes, beautiful but disturbing. Many eyes arrayed above the animal, which walks so heavily”. It’s “a beautiful animal,” she says, “but one that always seems tired.” These stories seem to be exactly that animal. Things We Lost in the Fire is translated by Megan McDowell.
First published in The New Yorker, December 19 & 26, 2016. Collected in Things We Lost in the Fire, London; New York: Hogarth, 2017