The Scent of Buenos Aires is the first collection of Uhart's to be published in English, and Maureen Shaughnessy's translation perfectly captures Uhart's extraordinary world, one dappled with iridescent ivy and the small epiphanies of ord...
Hebe Uhart, trans. from the Spanish by Maureen Shaughnessy. Archipelago, $24 trade paper (484p) ISBN 978-1-939810-34-2
Reviewed on : 08/09/2019
Release date: 10/15/2019
Book - 978-1-939810-35-9
This collection from Uhart (1936–2018), her first to be translated into English, introduces new readers to a refreshing and unique writer. Uhart’s stories are written in a voice that’s frank, almost conversational, and occasionally humorous, but they land with surprising gravitas. In “The Stories Told by Cecilia’s Friends,” the titular stories, though mundane, turn out to be oddly prescient for Cecilia, inducing a new outlook on life. Though none are very long, Uhart’s briefest tales are snatches of a scene (“At the Hair Salon”), allegorical (“Christmas Eve in the Park”), or have the tone of a bedtime tale (“The Boy Who Couldn’t Fall Asleep”). While some nail their intent, such as “At the Hair Salon,” which nicely encapsulates the perfect storm of vanity and gossip in a hair salon, or “Hello Kids,” in which children sharply observe animals at the zoo, others can feel like filler, such as “My New Love,” which uses lover’s language to describe a dog. Still, there’s a wonderfully off-kilter humanity to Uhart’s writing that readers are sure to respond to. This collection feels like a deserved celebration of a writer’s career. (Oct.)
Hebe Uhart (2 December 1936 – 11 October 2018) was an Argentine writer. In 2017, she received the Manuel Rojas Ibero-American Narrative Award.
Uhart's works have been collected in numerous anthologies.
1962 – Dios, San Pedro y las almas (short stories)
1963 – Epi, Epi, Pamma sabhactani (short stories)
1970 – La gente de la casa rosa (short stories)
1974 – La elevación de Maruja (novella)
1976 – El budín esponjoso (short stories)
1983 – La luz de un nuevo día (short stories)
1986 – Leonor (novel)
1987 – Camilo asciende (novel)
1992 – Memorias de un pigmeo (short stories)
1995 – Mudanzas (novel)
1997 – Guiando la hiedra (short stories)
1999 – Señorita (novel)
2003 – Del cielo a casa (short stories)
2004 – Camilo asciende y otros relatos (short stories)
2008 – Turistas (short stories)
2010 – Relatos reunidos (short stories and novellas)
2011 – Viajera crónica (travel log)
2012 – Visto y oído (travel logs)
2015 – Un día cualquiera (mapa de las lenguas) (short stories)
2015 – De la Patagonia a México (travel logs)
2017 – De aquí para allá (travel logs)
2018 – Animales (tales)
Awards and distinctions
2004 – Konex Award Merit Diploma, in the category "Cuento: quinquenio 1999–2003"
2011 – Book Foundation Award for Best Argentine Book of Literary Creation, for Relatos reunidos
2014 – Konex Award Merit Diploma, in the category "Cuento: quinquenio 2004–2008"
2015 – Fondo Nacional de las Artes Prize
2017 – Manuel Rojas Ibero-American Narrative Award
When someone comes to visit from abroad, or from Buenos Aires … it’s like travelling without even having to pack a suitcase,” remarks a character in one of these addictive, offbeat stories by the award-winning Hebe Uhart, who died last year aged 81.
Immersing oneself in this collection – her first book to be translated into English, by Maureen Shaughnessy – is indeed like travelling, as we visit one character’s world and then another’s, inhabiting the revealing mundanities of each life. Little happens in terms of plot; rather, each story is an understated exercise in conjuring a whole existence through a revealing thought or gesture.
Frequently, domesticity mingles with philosophy, as in the opening story “Guiding the Ivy”, a small masterpiece in which we join a woman arranging her plants. Her reflections on the difficulty of tidying up segue into “For as long as I can remember I’ve put off using the hatred one needs to survive”.
Uhart often captures her characters at a moment of seeking order, while simultaneously having to accept the lack of it. In each story, reality feels a little off-centre; the reader returns from her travels feeling refreshingly unbalanced.
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