Trout, Belly Up by Rodrigo Fuentes

The short story collection set in the Guatemalan countryside is quirky, dynamic and thoughtful

Book Review by Mika Cook | 26 Feb 2019
  • Trout Belly Up
Book title: Trout, Belly Up
Author: Rodrigo Fuentes (translated by Ellen Jones)

Trout, Belly Up features a number of short stories set in the Guatemalan countryside, centred around Don Henrik and his trout farm. The stories feature loss and death, linked by the motif of the trout, suffocated by lack of oxygen and floating belly up in their tank.

The stories do not seem connected in any formal manner, and Don Henrik himself is particularly enigmatic and malleable. While his motives for setting up the trout farm in Trout, Belly Up reportedly came from his travels to Scandinavia, Dive hints at an actual Scandinavian heritage. This recurs in Henrik, where Henrik, with his ‘deep Viking voice’ has inherited a cardamom farm.

Above all, however, the stories are drawn together with an innate sense of urban violence imposing on, and juxtaposed with, the countryside. The general effect is that of curiousness, particularly in Perla, Out of The Blue, with a cow who wishes she were a dog. The stories each provide their own takes on the world, which change and throw up new perspectives with each reading.

As we have come to expect from Charco Press, Ellen Jones’ translation of this collection is stellar. Fuentes’ writing is precise, yet delicate and beguiling, and has been beautifully captured in this English translation. Trout, Belly Up is quirky, dynamic and thoughtful all wrapped up in one, and generally begs the question whether Charco Press are capable of publishing anything less than brilliant. [Mika Cook]

Charco Press, 7 Feb, £8.99