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Mariana Enríquez. Photo: Leandro Teysseire/AP.
Mariana Enríquez. Photo: Leandro Teysseire/AP.

Mariana Enríquez: "Writing horror from Latin America involves incorporating our social fears"

The Argentine writer is one of the nominees for the International Booker Prize for The Dangers of Smoking in Bed. (Granta Books)

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Genre literature, like film, has always occupied a minority place within what has been called "high culture", but from Latin America and in a feminine key, numerous female authors are carving out a place for themselves with their books among the best of international fiction, using both science fiction and horror narrative to make a political critique of their respective countries while digging into the depths of the human psyche. 

Among them is Argentina's Mariana Enríquez, the "lady of horror", whose stories and novels - the latest, Nuestra Parte de Noche (Our Part of the Night, 2019) won the prestigious Herralde Prize - move between urban realism and horror with a very personal and sensitive look at those who suffer from the disinherited, the marginalized. These are the most ordinary people who, as a good heiress of Stephen King, the Argentinean writer includes in her work. 

A work, just like that of King's, not exempt from the macabre humor with which the writer depicts an Argentina of urban legends that become self-fulfilling prophecies: missing young people who return to their homes although they are no longer the same, neighborhood curses or women sexually obsessed with human hearts. 

Anomaly once again surrounds Enríquez and emerges from her books to envelop reality with a patina of unease that many of us already desired after she was nominated for the International Booker Prize for The Dangers Of Smoking In Bed (Granta Books), a collection of 12 stories translated by Megan McDowell who is brilliantly fluent in the Southern Cone lexicon. 

Mariana herself acknowledges her surprise when she received the news of her nomination and tells the Associated Press:

"It's not usual for the Booker.... [the stories] aren't just weird, they're quite wild," she says. 

It was the tenderness with which the writer reflects those who are afraid, in limbo or in pain that was appreciated by the prize jury. In addition to the representation of the convulsive Argentinean universe, which has always been an inspiration for the author and cultural journalist, who is very interested in "politics in general".

Born in 1973, Mariana Enríquez belongs to the group of Argentinean writers who grew up during the military dictatorship that left thousands of people disappeared. In Nuestra Parte de Noche, she situates the action in this same context of dictatorship, following a father and son in a story where magic, power and the omnipotence of the family and inheritance mark their journey. 

The Argentinean has also just published a rare bird of essays in Spanish, Alguien camina sobre tu tumba (Someone walks on your grave, Anagrama Ed.), a journey through the cemeteries of half the world. 

Perhaps the greatest merit of this author is not only her ability to make the supernatural something completely natural, but also to have rescued terror from the dungeons of the label and brought it closer to the general public. 

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