“In this impressionistic, dreamlike collection, Navarro deploys surrealism to comic, haunting effect.” —New York Times
These eleven stories from one of Granta’s “Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists” combine gritty surrealism with explosive interior meditations, traversing the fickle, often terrifying terrain between madness and freedom. In the title story, a so-called “non-inventor” brings snow-white rabbits to an island inhabited exclusively by birds, with horrific results. In “Myotragus” a privileged man’s understanding of the world is violently disrupted by the sight of a creature long thought extinct. Elsewhere in these stories that map dingy hotel rooms, shape-shifting cities, and graveyards, an unsightly “paw” grows from a writer’s earlobe and a grandmother floats silently in the corner of the room.
The stories in Spanish writer Navarro's arresting collection (after A Working Woman) are set in and around present-day Madrid, but the characters often find themselves in a more surreal terrain. In the title story, a man releases 20 rabbits on an uninhabited island in hopes they will eat the eggs of the birds whose excrement, noise, and dirty feathers are preventing him from enjoying the few nights a week he camps there, a plan which devolves into a grotesque, cannibalistic situation. In "Strychnine," a paw grows in the young protagonist's ear. It starts out as a red swelling, but by the next day the appendage hangs "below her breast" and has "sprouted toes with small mouths." In "Myotragus," Navarro imagines an encounter between a predatory nobleman and a cold-blooded (now extinct) goat that lived on the island of Majorca. While some stories feel overly impressionistic, with too little plot, the most daring in the collection are unsettling and memorable. Navarro showcases her ability to lead her characters from relative normalcy into nightmare terrain in starkly elegant prose and with a winking sense of humor.
It wasn’t for me.
I was excited by the synopsis of these surrealist, eerie stories, but the execution felt lack luster. Maybe the surrealism was simply over my head because it’s well written. The stories were dreamlike as described but the kind where it’s random and slightly uncomfortable but for no apparent reason so you don’t tell your partner about them in the morning because they’re too boring to retell.