A Perfect Cemetery
Federico Falco, Jennifer Croft
Mr B's review
Check out our Conversation with Federico and Jennifer here: Mr B’s Presents a Perfect Cemetery with Federico Falco and Jennifer Croft
A Perfect Cemetery is a collection of short stories which feel thematically connected. The opening story of a feral king who reigns over a meadow begins in an almost fablestic manner. The description is effortlessly rich. The second part of the story sees the king return to the nearby town to gather supplies, at which point he is pursued with hostility by the town’s folk; people he at one time may have been friends with. There are many potential readings available of these stories, and that’s what makes them so fantastic. The second story highlights the rich variety of subject matter and perspective, focusing on the daughter of a Catholic family who renounces her faith and pursues the love of a Mormon. However, for me the binding theme was: wilderness, retreat, and pursuit. Throughout the stories, characters retreat from communities, expectations, and norms into a kind of wilderness. Whether it is the golden meadows of the feral hare king or the wild interiority of a daughter withdrawing from a shared faith, they are characters which are not simply allowed to do so, they are pursued and when pursued one often looks for escape in frantic, chaotic, dangerous, and extreme ways. This really is an exceptional and cohesive collection of stories, my only wish is that I could spend a little longer with the characters that Federico and Jennifer have so carefully crafted.
Those of you who have read the English edition of Flights by Olga Tokarczuk would have read Jennifer’s work before. The collection of short stories concludes with a note on translation by Jennifer Croft. In it she describes the roles of the translator and the author like so: the author is the screenwriter and the translator is the director. It is a fascinating insight which helps to answer many of my own questions about the role we play as a translator when reading. For each of us, in a way, translates stories into our own intimate system of language. Making each reading experience at once unique yet also shared; although we read the same pages our experiences of the story may be vastly different. In a way we are all directors, using the tools our environment lends us, to construct and make sense of our world.
Childhood does not last long in the Argentine mountains of Cordoba, and adult lives fall apart quickly. In disarming, darkly humorous stories, Federico Falco explores themes of obsessive love, romantic attachment and the strategies we must find to cope with death and painful longing.In the middle of a blizzard a widow watches the ruin of her late-husband’s garden, until suddenly she sees a woman running naked in the falling snow. After telling her parents she is abandoning her Christian faith, a girl becomes infatuated with a Mormon missionary who reminds her of a boy killed in her village years before. When his family’s home is lost, a father desperately offers his daughter’s hand in marriage to anyone who will take them in. And a town’s mayor tries to fulfill his father’s dying wish – to design the perfect cemetery.
The quiet assurance with which Falco addresses rural environments represents a departure recalling the perspectives of writers from the northern hemisphere such as Denis Johnson, Knut Hamsun or Tobias Wolff. –The Times Literary Supplement
The succinctness of the plotlines in these stories is inversely proportional to their vast narrative expanse, to everything the writing is able to carve out between the sharply curtailed dialogues and all that simmers underneath. –La Nacion
Perfectly honed… [Falco’s] skill is apparent in the originality of these plots, the economy and naturalness of the characters’ conversations, and in the meticulous observation of a gesture that may encapsulate whole central motifs –N Magazine
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