Argentina-born novelist Borinsky (All Night Movie, 2002, etc.) returns with a collection of arch, opaque stories, ranging from two-and-a-half pages to one line.
Presumably set in Buenos Aires, these 88 mini-morality tales caution against trusting either the opposite sex or a country’s current ruling junta. In “Love Song,” a wife who leaves her husband for a baker is forced to return as her ex’s domestic servant when, aided by global economics, the baker goes out of business. Her new husband dies of “the well-known disease . . . after treating an albino canary’s infected pimple”—and things only get more obscure from there. In the longest and most conventional story, “The Contest,” a woman wins a “Voyage of the Millennium,” but kills herself when she learns that she can’t take her beloved cats on the trip. The shorter stories are even more overtly puzzling, frequently (but not consistently) disdaining such niceties as capitalization. The narrator of “haven’t I seen that face before?” frets over her lover’s haste to return home, knowing that his wife will confront him with evidence of the affair, perhaps supplied by the mistress herself. In “a strong hand,” the contemptuous description of a man who fails to conform to consumer culture ends with the chilling observation that he’ll make an ideal torture victim. “Let’s Not Be Selfish” urges older women to dress like teenagers, and vice-versa, in order to take social pressure off both groups. Students of translation will refer frequently to the original Spanish in this dual-language edition to see what interesting liberties have been taken in the facing-page English version. Borinsky (Latin American and Comparative Literature/Boston Univ.), who collaborated on the translation, argues in her preface that a less literal rendering was necessary to preserve her irony in English.
For readers who persevere, rewards lurk beneath the metafictional façade.