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OTHER FIRES: SHORT FICTION BY LATIN AMERICAN WOMEN.

Edited by Alberto Manguel. Toronto, Lester & Orpen Dennys, c1986. 222pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-88619-065-7. CIP

Adult
Reviewed by Los P.A. Maingon

Volume 15 Number 1
1987 January


Two years after his massive anthology of fantastic literature, Black Water,* and a year after the shorter but more interesting Dark Arrows: Chronicles of Revenge,** Alberto Manguel has now completed a trilogy of anthologies of short fiction with Other Fires. As in his previous anthologies, readers will be delighted to find a new accessible collection of Latin American authors who have not yet received the kind of exposure to the North American reading public that they deserve. This is particularly so in the case of the authors Manuel has selected for this anthology, given that the common thread of the collection is not simply thematic, but feminist. Indeed, Manguel is to be wholly congratulated not only for bringing to light authors who have been unduly neglected, those of the so-called third world, but for having had the foresight to focus on the other, or third voice-that of women writers of Latin America.

The textual cohesion of the anthology lies in its predilection for topics dealing with primitive life, repressed lives, social aberration, and escape from temporal linearity. These topics, often presented under metaphorical titles, oscillate between the twin themes of social annihilation of primitive identity and ultimate recovery of an intra-historical identity with the land. In the first story, Armenia Somers's "The Fall," the violence of the individuated ego of primitive man now corrupted seeks atonement in feminine symbols of the Self, only to find that the feminine anima rebels and recovers its own reality. In the final story, Rosario Castellanos's "Death of the Tiger," consecrated violence consumes itself and is subsumed to the throb of inner voices that clamour for survival, which ultimately belongs to Woman. Hence, these twenty short stories chronicle the passive role assigned to woman and her tacit rebellion, which is interpreted as irrationality in the male grammar commonly known to the reader as literature.

The chronicle is as varied as the authors' personalities. It presents magnificent examples of magical realism, such as the first and last stories and Elena Garro's "It's the Fault of the Tlaxcaltecas," which is a jewel miniature of the Latin American modern novel. Surrealist elements of gothicism also abound, such as Alejandra Pizarnik's "The Bloody Countess" and Vlady Kocianich's "Knight, Death and the Devil," whose logic is greatly complemented by Silvina Ocampo's "Two Reports." The social realist tradition is also well represented in the cinematographic techniques of Marta Lynch's "Latin Lover," Clarice Lispector's "The Imitation of the Rose," Liniana Heker's "The Stolen Party," and the science fiction tale of Angelica Gorodischer, "Man's Dwelling Place." The generally anguishing tone of the collection is offset by the biting feminine humour of Elena Poniatowska's "The Night Visitor" and Lydia Cabrera's "How the Monkey Lost the Fruit of his Labor," both of which span the range of narrative styles represented in the anthology.

There is therefore no doubt as to the cultural value of this collection of tales compiled by Alberto Manguel. This anthology, as do its predecessors, represents a precious contribution to the dissemination of Latin American literature among the North American public. The introduction by Manguel to the tales is longer than those of his previous anthologies and will undoubtedly assist the reader in understanding some of the textual and social complexities. There is, however, one great drawback to this anthology. When the texts are compared to the original, it is obvious that the translator's style usurps that of the author, so that authorial individuality in the anthology is lost and gives way to the homogeneity of the translator. In other words, the style of the translator-editor so pervades the text that it seems that most of the tales were written by the same author. It is therefore to be noted that in this anthology, as in the two previous ones, Manguel's work serves a very necessary public function, but does not meet with the standards of scholarly rigour.

The anthology is itself presented on good manila paper in large print and sturdily bound in a plasticized cardboard paper cover with a reproduction of George Tooker's "The Gypsy."


Los P.A. Maingon, Dept. of Modern Languages, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.

*Reviewed vol. XIII/5 September 1985 p. 208.
**Reviewed vol. XIII/6 November 1985 p.255.

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