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In the last few years, the horror genre is taking over Argentine literature as it has never seen before.  It’s also a novelty that amongst the names of the building pioneers of the genre in the country many of them are women. And what’s more, there is a name that stands out almost like an echo: Mariana Enríquez.

A native from Lanús, in the south of the Greater Buenos Aires metropolitan area, this writer, journalist, and teacher has been awarded a number of prizes for her work and her books have been re-issued multiple times after being sold out.

She is known as the Argentinian Mary Shelley, and as the reinventor of the gothic genre in this side of the hemisphere. Her prose is poignant and frightening, it makes us feel uncomfortable and disturbed, but, why do we like it so much?

If we leave aside the excellence of her writing, the answer seems simple and at the same time terrifying:  Mariana Enriquez’s horror is real.

 

 

Growing up with slasher films, and with Stephen King novels and film adaptations of these, Enriquez’s narrative obliges us to contract a pact of reading that immerse us in truthfulness and provokes adrenaline:  The evil is there, in the air of the city in which we develop our everyday life.  In the Constitución neighborhood known for its elevated crime, and homelessness rate, in the silent outskirts of Lanús, on a road trip to the Northern provinces, in the subway wagon we take every day to commute to our jobs. Enriquez´s literary world is as threatening as our own daily reality.  In her stories horror comes from more than just an element, an event, or a character, it’s not an irruption of fantasy in a realistic environment.  The horror inhabits the world by nature, the fear is in the barrios, in state violence, in gender violence, in battered bodies turned abhorrent coming back with a vengeance.  

The elements of the gothic genre are renewed by the author, in a city where cemeteries are no longer a place to fear, even less haunted castles or souls in Purgatory, these elements are not necessary to create a dark atmosphere: The dirt, gruesomeness,  corruption, along with traces of the dictatorship, the mystique, and the supernatural are mixed with the local lore to create a raw and frightening experience.     

Raw and without euphemisms, that is Mariana Enriquez’s horror that we can find, for example in ¨Under The Black Water¨  a case of trigger-happy against two teenagers that submerges us in the day to day of a Villa Miseria  ( the argentine slums) that surrounds the Riachuelo river where the sinister vibe escalates as we walk through the Villa’s corridors where cumbia and murga play a soundtrack driving us to an even more ominous environment. In  ¨The Neighbor´s Courtyard¨  a social worker that has been fired due to negligence against two children under her care, freshly moved to her new home believes to have seen a creepy kid chained to her neighbor’s courtyard. And in the story that gives title to this compilation, ´The Things We Lost in The Fire´  a group of women fed up with suffering domestic violence at the hands of their partners, and having been burned alive by them, collectively decide to set themselves on fire.

In ¨The Dirty Kid¨ A boy and his mother sleeping on a mattress in the streets of Constitución are the focus of a dismal and perverse story.

Mariana Enriquez´s literary work emerges as a fundamental piece of the new argentine narrative that we cannot leave aside to know, to read, and re-read making us re-inhabit the barrios that we know by heart, this time veiled by absolute terror.

 

By Soledad Rubiano.  Translation by Nadia Sol Schneider

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