Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez

Book Review by Alan Bett | 03 Apr 2017
Book title: Things We Lost in the Fire
Author: Mariana Enriquez

Buenos Aires: a city of ghoulish children with sharpened teeth and murdered teens who return from beneath dark waters.  A city of women who see self-immolation as a form of protest against male violence, and where derelict houses entice then consume inquisitive kids. Combine these supernatural terrors with everyday corrupt cops, abusive husbands and hyperinflation in this city with environmental and moral pollution pumping through its arteries. Compare the ghost of a child killer with the spectre of The Dirty War, dictatorship and the disappeared. In her collection of short stories, Enriquez offers these themes equality in terror.

Having grown up under the Argentine dictatorship then the shadow of its demise, her modern gothics inhabit a middle ground between the brutality endured and the lasting disfigurement left upon a nation. They exist in the twilight between natural and supernatural, where past atrocities reverberate into the present and guilt and blame fester between generations.

These narratives are overtly politicised – feminist, social and environmental subtext seeps through – yet, thankfully, they draw equal influence from genre fiction and film (for example, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse – that creeping tale of ghosts stalking the internet) to ensure they're not only supremely important, but addictive and joyfully grotesque. And while, as with all collections, some stories suit tastes more than others, there’s not a single dud among them. Born from the scars of a nation, these will leave a lasting mark on you.

Out 6 April, published by Portobello Books, RRP £12.99