Gabriela Torres Olivares - The words are wounds and portals, and her narratives somehow puncture into the heart of what it means to be a human among other humans, monstrous, touching, apparitions of each other and of the disappearing myths that are still embedded in our bloodstream
Gabriela Torres Olivares, Enfermario, Trans. by Jennifer Donovan, Les Figues Press, 2017.
The stories that comprise Gabriela Torres Olivares’ Enfermario explore the ontology of difference through the bodies, desires and experiences of her characters. With a gaze that is constantly shifting, she constructs narratives that explore the profundity of otherness across beings and quasi beings, seeking out both the discomfort they produce and common ground they share with her readers. Gabriela Torres Olivares invites us into her characters’ worlds only to defamiliarize the quotidian and thus challenge our most basic preconceptions.
Gabriela Torres Olivares is one of my favorite living writers; her sentences are devastating, beautiful, utterly desired, and then, are like the skin that needs to be shed off in cycles. After all, we are reptilian. The words are wounds and portals, and her narratives somehow puncture into the heart of what it means to be a human among other humans, monstrous, touching, apparitions of each other and of the disappearing myths that are still embedded in our bloodstream. The stories in Enfermario exist somehow as the sediment for our current condition, as the evidence of our sad secrets, and as the inflections of our uncanny and everyday cognition. - Janice Lee
Am I a monster or is this what it means to be human?
Most Notable Myths from Childhood
Enfermario, the third book by Mexican writer Gabriela Torres Olivares, was published in Spanish in 2010 and named one of the best books of the year by Reforma newspaper. Now, it’s out in English in a bilingual volume by Les Figues Press.
Enfermario is a collection of fifteen stories, all of which deal, in one way or another, with the corporeal nature of life. The stories do not shy away from baring the human body and all that surrounds it. From the story of separated conjoined twins to that of a sister with impaired hearing; from diabetes to cancer, from masturbation to sex and rape, and from suicide to euthanasia and murder—the stories explore how the body falls by itself or is undone by those around it.
Olivares creates scenes that are immediate and harsh. She uses language that is direct, even vulgar, and exercises an honesty that bares the violence and vulnerabilities of her characters. She is not ashamed of exposing any aspect or layer of the human beings portrayed. For example, consider these lines from So What If She Has Tourette’s:
“The sound of a penis that enters and exits the virginal vagina of its daughter. The sound not of a rape by he who begot you. This is the sound of an agreement. The sound that will avert your roaming the streets in search of what your family gives you. This is the sound of education.”
Or these in The Parable of the Talk Show:
“He wishes that it had been him accusing the mother on national TV and getting all the prizes and tomorrow breathing a different oxygen, converting into different carbon dioxide. He would like to be the one who at the end of the program sobs and embraces the host, and when the credits roll: an audience applauding his great feat and sympathizing with his anguish. Hewisheshewereshe.”
The estrangement that Olivares’s characters feel, not just from those around them, but from themselves, is not just internal or philosophical, but, like their bodies, tangible and concrete. Not only does Olivares make the reader feel this estrangement but also makes us aware of our mortality and thus the complications of our existence as flesh and blood creatures. In “Skincubator” (fleshpot) we read:
“My mother knew. My mother sensed in her infantile and conspiratorial games that her sister Lola had caught something which occluded her hearing. For days she shouted at her; nevertheless she said nothing for fear… Altering them, mentioning it to her parents, would lead to a double punishment; for, in their home, messengers had their heads cut off too.”
The last story of Enfermario, “Autobiography of a Centaur,” has these lines:
“I went back to the neighborhood after much reflection. I didn’t have a reason to return, and nonetheless. I wanted to know the truth, not the true truth, rather, fate: that of my centaur.”
And that is perhaps the theme running through all the stories: this desire to know the fate of humans who, in one way or another, are all centaurs. - Poupeh Missaghi
Archive for the ‘Gabriela Torres Olivares: The Lusting For Infinity’ Category
Gabriela Torres Olivares was born in Monterrey, México. She is the author of three collections of short stories: Enfermario (Tierra Adentro, 2010), Incompletario (Ediciones Intempestivas, 2007) and Están Muertos, (Harakiri Plaquettes, 2004). Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, as well as in numerous periodicals. She currently lives in Tijuana, México, and she writes regularly at her blog: lachicacenicero.blogspot.com.