A female writer who is losing her sight probes the meaning of language, genre, and the reader’s expectations.
This intriguing short novel by Chilean writer Meruane is her first to be translated into English. It won Mexico’s prestigious Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize in 2012. Meruane, who teaches at New York University, tells the traumatic story of Lucina, a Chilean writer also living in New York. The 60ish short, un-capitalized chapters are simply titled: “burst,” “that face,” “sleepwalker,” etc. Blending fiction and autobiography, the narrator and Meruane both suffer from diabetes, which can cause a hemorrhagic stroke affecting the eyes. The story is fairly simple, the telling intricate. While enjoying herself at a party, Lucina suddenly experiences a “firecracker” going off in her head. Blood begins spilling forth in her eye, the “most shockingly beautiful blood I have ever seen.” It's both outrageous and terrifying and only she can see it. Her other eye is also affected; she’s virtually blind. Lucina and her partner, Ignacio, are in the midst of a move to a new apartment. She now needs help to get around, to relearn the “geography of things.” When she’s finally able to get an appointment with her doctor, he tells her it may not clear up. She travels to Santiago to visit family and refuses to see a doctor there. She thinks about her country as being ill, too. Back in New York, she’s told her eye is still bad and may never heal: “Don’t move doctor, I whispered. Wait for me here, and I’ll bring you a fresh eye.” Throughout, Lucina (and Meruane) meditates upon illness and its relationship with the process of writing and going blind.
Meruane, whom Roberto Bolaño called one of the “greats in the new generation of Chilean writers,” fashions a challenging metafiction that ventures into fresh and provocative places.