I received an advanced review copy of this title from Yale University Press through NetGalley. This edition has been translated by Alberto Manguel and Miranda France.
Heker shows us in these short stories her ability to successfully write about a wide range of topics: from the relationship of servant and master, to the Oedipus Complex, to the toll that mental illness takes on an entire family. The stories follow a stream-of-consciousness style, oftentimes involving abrupt and confusing transitions, that weaves us through the minds of many different types of characters.
The most clever story in the collection is “Strategies Against Sleeping.” Señora Eloisa is being driven by a chauffer on a long ride during which she is very tired; she wants nothing more than to close her eyes and take a good long nap. But the driver starts talking to her about how he could not sleep a wink on the previous night. As a result he is very tired and wants her to talk to him so that he stays awake while he is driving.
We feel the pain and discomfort of the woman and the driver who are both fighting to stay awake for different reasons. At one point during her forced conversations the woman becomes desperate for any kind of relief: “For a very brief moment she had to suppress a desire to open the door and throw herself onto the road.” In her delirium, Señora Eloisa lets slip a very dark and personal family story that horrifies the driver and will definitely serve to keep him awake.
The story “Early Beginnings or Ars Poetica” includes the most extreme examples of the author’s abrupt transitions; this story reads like a dream sequence. The narrator begins the story by imagining that a lion or a horse is present in his apartment when he goes to sleep . The narrator then transitions to a philosophical musings about God and the beginnings of the earth. Then the narrator transitions to imagining that he is four years old and is sitting in from of four cups of chocolate and a yellow plastic tablecloth on his birthday. The story continues on in this fashion until the ending which is equally jarring.
This is my first taste of Argentinian literature and I will definitely look for more authors from this country. I highly recommend PLEASE TALK TO MY as a quirky and symbolic collection of stories from Liliana Heker.
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