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Monday, December 19, 2016

One of the strongest New Yorker debut stories in some time

Very good story this week in New Yorker double issue (ha, what a joke, it just means it's a 50-issue magazine rather than a weekly) from an author unknown to me and I suspect to most North American readers, Mariana Enriques. Good for her - the New Yorker has played a role in advancing the careers of many other writers, including Murakami and S.American Roberto Bolano (too late for him, sadly). It appears from the story that she may be a 40-something Argentine; in any event, the story takes place in what appears to be the 90s?, in northern Argentina and in Paraguay, at a time when those were really scary places, esp Paraguay under the Stroessner dictatorship, possibly the worst in the continent. The narrator, a woman probably in her 20s, tells her story with wit, precision, and honesty: her mother died in an accident (this is left intentionally and ominously vague) and in her period of mourning she married too hastily to a rich, nasty guy who she realizes now she doesn't love at all; at the urging of her aunt and uncle in northern Argentina, they come to visit - in part to intro him to the closest surviving relatives - and woman dreads this as she knows they won't like him at all - which turns out to be the case. With her attractive and independent cousin joining them, they drive into Paraguay to by some lace at an open-air market (her cousin makes cloths and coverings out of the lace). To Enriques's credit, this story does not go where you think it will - I'll leave it at that - and the trip to Paraguay is filled with threats and menace; over the course of the journey we come to detest the husband and to feel increasingly sad about the narrator trapped in this losing relationship - but she's strong and resourceful, so we don't exactly pity her. If there's a flaw in the story it's that the ending, to me, was too abrupt and perhaps incomplete or not fully realized; that said, the narration is so strong, the view of, for me, a different culture was so precise and credible that I'd put this up as one of the best New Yorker debuts in some time - and I expect we'll see more from her.

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