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Other titles in the Latin American Women Writers series:
The Weight of Temptation (Latin American Women Writers)by Ana Maria Shua
Synopses & Reviews
In Death as a Side Effect, Ana María Shuas brilliantly dark satire transports readers to a dystopic future Argentina where gangs of ad hoc marauders and professional thieves roam the streets while the wealthy purchase security behind fortified concrete walls and the elderly cower in their apartments in fear of being whisked off to state-mandated “convalescent” homes, never to return. Abandoned by his mistress, suffocated by his father, and estranged from his demented mother and ineffectual sister, Ernesto seeks his vanished lover. Hoping to save his dying father from the ministrations of a diabolical health-care system, he discovers that, ultimately, everyone is a patient, and the instruments wielded by the impersonal medical corps cut to the very heart of the social fabric.
The world of this novel, with its closed districts, unsafe travel, ubiquitous security cameras, and widespread artificiality and uncertainty, is as familiar as it is strange—and as instructive, in its harrowing way, as it is deeply entertaining. The Spanish edition has been selected by the Congreso de la Lengua Española as one of the one hundred best Latin American novels published in the last twenty-five years.
Cinderellas sisters surgically modify their feet to win the princes love. A werewolf gathers up enough courage to visit a dentist. A medium trying to reach the afterworld gets a recorded message. A fox and a badger compete to out-fool each other. Whether writing of insomnia from a mosquitos point of view or showing us what happens after the princess kisses the frog, Ana María Shua, in these fleet and incandescent stories, is nothing if not pithy—except, of course, wildly entertaining. Some as short as a sentence, these microfictions have been selected and translated from four different books. Flashes of insight, cracks of wit, twists of logic, and quirks of language: these are fictions in the distinguished Argentinean tradition of Borges and Cortázar and Denevi, as powerful as they are brief.
One of Argentinas most prolific and distinguished writers, and acclaimed worldwide, Shua displays in these microfictions the epitome of her humor, riddling logic, and mastery over our imagination. Now, for the first time in English, the fox transforms itself into a fable, and “the reader is invited to find the tail.”
Dystopian fantasy, political parable, morality tale—however one reads it, this novel is first and foremost pure Ana María Shua, a work of fiction like no other and a dark pleasure to read. Shua, an Argentinian writer widely celebrated throughout Latin America, frames her complex drama in deceptively simple, straightforward prose. The story takes place at a fat farm called The Reeds, a nightmare world that might not exist but certainly could. The last resort of the overweight wealthy (or sponsored), The Reeds subjects its “campers” to extreme measures—particularly the regimented system of public humiliation imposed by its director, a glib and sharp-minded sadist called the Professor.
Into the midst of this methodical madness comes Marina Rubin, who experiences all the excesses of The Reeds. The pervasive cruelty of this refined novel distances it from facile conclusions. Amid the mordant social satire, The Reeds obese campers are far more than merely victims of the system, subjected to impossible social demands for physical perfection. Out of control, fierce, rebellious, or subjugated, they are recognizable human beings, contending with an unjust but efficient authority in their unique and solitary ways.
About the Author
Ana María Shuas work Microfictions and her novel Death as a Side Effect are available from the University of Nebraska Press. Andrea G. Labinger is a professor of Spanish emerita from the University of La Verne in Southern California. Her many translations include Shuas Death as a Side Effect, Alicia Steimbergs The Rainforest (Nebraska, 2006), and Call Me Magdalena (Nebraska, 2001).
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