"Meruane's prose has great literary force: it emerges from the hammer blows of conscience, but also from the ungraspable, and from pain."—Roberto Bolaño
This powerful, profound autobiographical novel describes a young Chilean writer recently relocated to New York for doctoral work who suffers a stroke, leaving her blind and increasingly dependent on those closest to her. Fiction and autobiography intertwine in an intense, visceral, and caustic novel about the relation between the body, illness, science, and human relationships.
Lina Meruane (b. 1970), considered the best woman author of Chile today, has won numerous prestigious international prizes, and lives in New York, where she teaches at NYU.
Blurring the lines between fiction and memoir, Meruane's first novel translated into English explores mortality, identity, and personal transformation. Lina, a fictionalized version of the author, experiences a severe ocular hemorrhaging that impairs her sight. The dark blood clouding Lina's eyes makes it difficult for her to move around her New York City apartment or navigate the busy streets alone. She must rely heavily on her lover, Ignacio. While trying to accept the possibility that she might be blind permanently, Lina and Ignacio visit her family in Santiago, Chile. The trip home prompts Lina to examine the limitations of her ailing body, the future of her writing and doctorate studies, and the effect her illness has on those around her. As Lina's condition worsens and she faces surgery, the strength of her relationship with Ignacio is tested. The book is composed of short scenes with titles, much like flash fiction. These brief glimpses into Lina's life accumulate to depict a woman trying her best to hold on to a sense of self as her world disappears from sight. McDowell's translation emboldens the intensity and lyricism of Meruane's visceral prose, littered with sensory details and savory descriptions of the smells and sounds surrounding Lina as her vision fails. This is a penetrating autobiographical novel, and for English-Language readers this work serves as a stunning introduction to a remarkable author.