“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
Set during the sweaty Southern Cone summer months, you’ll never experience a “happy couples’ holiday” with your beloved partner in quite the same way again after reading this! I love the slow build-up of tension and dread in this story, the strangeness of its details (like the disappearing fire glimpsed from an airplane), the A.M. Homes-esque brutality of the narrator towards her irritating husband, and the totally out-of-left-field (yet completely perfect) ending. You can’t have a story about disappearances set in the Río Plata area not seem like a commentary on historical atrocities, but the sly way this piece develops and builds upon this theme, in a way you wouldn’t expect, is utterly singular. I suggest reading this with a caipirinha in hand, bugs crawling over your feet, and plenty of sickly-smelling sunscreen burning your eyes.
First published in The New Yorker, December 2016) Chosen by Julianne Pachico. Read Julianne’s Personal Anthology here
My God, is Mariana Enríquez incredible. Things We Lost in the Fire is one of the strongest collections I’ve ever read, and I think this is my favorite story among the twelve on this list. Shirley Jackson fans, you MUST read her! I find the way “The Intoxicated Years” moves through time incredibly moving, as it traces the rise and fall of a friendship between a group of teenage girls in post-dictatorship, late 80s/early 90s Argentina.
From Things We Lost in the Fire, Portobello Books, 2017. Available to read online in Granta here