Author(s): Mariana Enríquez
A woman returns to the rundown suburb of Buenos Aires her family once called home. From the safety of her window, she watches as a teenage prostitute raises her five-year-old son on the street. They sleep outside, surrounded by pimps and addicts, psychopaths and dealers, worshippers of the occult and corrupt police. One day, the mother and the dirty kid are gone, and the dismembered body of a child is found in the neighbourhood. Is the murder part of a satanic ritual, or a gangland killing? Could it be the dirty kid, and if so, is his mother a victim too; or an accomplice; or his killer? Thrilling and terrifying, The Things We Lost in the Fire takes the reader into a world of Argentine Gothic: of sharp-toothed children; of women racked by desire; of demons who lurk beneath the river; of stolen skulls and secrets half-buried under Argentina's terrible dictatorship; of men imprisoned in their marriages, whose only path out lies in the flames.
Mariana Enriquez’s short story collection Things we Lost in the Fire is as beguiling as it is haunting. Described as ‘Argentine Gothic’, the macabre tales encircle the supernatural, with depictions of demons and ghosts, but it is far from a traditional horror scenario. Enriquez’s characters are fascinating, sometimes eccentric, and you walk alongside them as their curiousity is piqued by the unusual, as they try to make sense of eerie happenings or become disengaged with reality in a bid to push danger away from themselves. In many of the stories the protagonists are young or searching for meaning, trying to grasp what underpins their existence. A woman goes back to live in the now run-down suburb of her childhood and has a fraught interaction with the ‘dirty kid’ who lives on the street with his junkie mother. In another story three young women live a hedonistic lifestyle, vowing allegiance to each other - blood sisters - only to increasingly see that their options in life are limited. They become obsessed with the fable of a ghost girl, a girl who walked off the bus and into the woods. They long to escape. A man, who works on a tourist bus and tells the stories of famous and nasty crimes, starts to see the ghost of a murderer - who then joins in on the antics of the retellings. But only he can see the murderer - the tourists are oblivious. Three children become fascinated with a bricked up house. One of them - the girl with one arm - is absorbed by the house, never to reappear. In all the stories there is a sense of threat and strangeness. Revenge, love, betrayal play their roles, along with superstition and jealousy, but this collection is also about poverty, corruption, political disappearances, and the violent history of Argentina. In a city seething with life, there is an undercurrent that unsettles people living on the edge of the unknown.
A thrilling, terrifying slice of 'Argentine Gothic': these stories mark the debut of an internationally renowned writer whose fiction hits 'with the force of a freight train' (Dave Eggers)
MARIANA ENRIQUEZ is a novelist, journalist and short story writer from Argentina. She has published two novels, a collection of short stories as well as a collection of travel writings, Chicos que vuelven, and a novella. She is an editor at Pagina/12, a newspaper based in Buenos Aires. MEGAN MCDOWELL is a Spanish language translator. She has translated books by Alejandro Zambra, Samanta Schweblin, Gonzalo Torne, Lina Meruane, Carlos Busqued, and Mariana Enriquez. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the ParisReview, Harper's, TinHouse, and McSweeney's. She lives in Chile.