Reseñas

Sobre The curse of Eve and other stories (Host Publications, 2008):

En Weave Magazine : writing, art, diversity community, por Jennifer Lue

Review: The Curse of Eve by Liliana Blum, trans. Toshiya Kamei

The Curse of Eve is a collection of stories about women—women as lovers, girls, mothers, and daughters, women of hope, violence, voice, Mexico and the violence of hope. The Curse of Eve represents a first on two counts—the first full-length story collection from author Liliana Blum, and the first full-length book translation by Toshiya Kamei.

In his opening note, Kamei uses these words to describe Blum’s fiction: ‘foreboding,’ ‘tragic,’ ‘lighthearted,’ ‘dark,’ and ‘damned feminist.’

Foreboding, yes, as in the story of a mistress who meets Stalin’s wife or when a modern-day Miss Marple attempts to solve the crime of infidelity. Tragic, when women describe their struggles to learn the touch of a man, and others who learn it too soon. Lighthearted in the case of dwarf as Avon Lady and in one woman’s chance meeting with Ron Jeremy. Dark as the inner psyche of an artist who uses real-life models for his work. The Curse of Eve as ‘damned feminist?’ Always.

Blum deftly renders each woman in her own state of personal trauma. There is the moment of discovery between a husband and wife, the beginnings of an understanding between brother and sister, and the recovery of a woman coming to terms with her past. There are men too—men defined by women, men driven by their repulsion and desire for women, men as narrators, observers, actors, and catalysts for action.

In the collection’s title story, The Curse of Eve (A Tragedy in Seven Acts), Kamei translates Blum’s story of a woman coming to terms with the pangs of pregnancy. While her husband remains blissfully absent, a modern-day Eve traces her thoughts through the course of two violent births, the loss of her youth, and her imprisonment in motherhood. From the insignificant act that marks the beginning of her curse to the birth of a daughter who will inherit “the sufferings of her kind,” the nameless narrator remarks that she is told that she must, at all times, remember to, “Take it like a woman.” A theme that is echoed throughout the collection, we are made to understand that Blum’s women can take it all. Even as we become acutely aware of the extent to which ‘Eve’ suffers, as well as the tragedy that lies in store for her, we hold on to the hope she feels when she admits to holding her child for the first time, admitting that, “at this moment nothing else matters.”

This sentiment is mirrored in the equally haunting, Periquita Shoes. With stark prose and striking imagery, Kamei renders Blum’s story about a local balloon seller’s desire for a young girl with Periquita shoes. His single-minded passion is likened to his craft, described as one that, “rises, blows up, [like] a balloon reaching its limits.” His desire is compounded by the vast difference in their ages. As the story culminates in an act of startling cruelty, we are left to lie in a field alongside the girl and her Periquita shoes, “full of pain, but alive.”

The landscape of Mexico provides the backdrop for these experiences—a country caught between the realm of superstition and spirituality, romance and reality. It defines Blum and The Curse of Eve as being both border and borderless, a nation of violence no more real than the violence of love, birth, and universal womanhood. From behind the curtains of race, class, gender, and sexuality, each woman carries her own curse of Eve, and the means to overcome it.

It is this universality that defines Blum’s work and her achievement as a writer. Although the stories in The Curse of Eve carry a thread of the foreign and the fantastical, the element of humanity that pervades each piece makes the event of one scene as recognizable as the next. The Curse of Eve is exact and exacting, written in a language that renders both the subject, and the reader, bare. The birth of both a new author and translator, The Curse of Eve marks the beginning of The Fall, a descent into a fiction where we are kept waiting for the next apple to drop.
Review by Jennifer Lue

Liliana V. Blum was born in Durango, Mexico, in 1974. She holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Kansas and a Master’s degree in Education from the Instituto Technológico de Monterrey. English translations of her stories have appeared in various literary journals, including Eclectica, Mslexia, storySouth, Blackbird, and The Dirty Goat. More of Liliana’s work can be found at http://lasalasdelalacran.blog.com/.

Toshiya Kamei has translated numerous Spanish and Latin American writers, including Liliana V. Blum, Estrella del Valle, Espido Freire, Ericka Ghersi, Leticia Luna, and Socorro Venegas. His translations have appeared in the journals The Dirty Goat, Literal: Latin American Voices and Metamorphoses, among others. His translation of Naoko Awa’s ‘White Mufflers’ can be found in Issue 02 of Weave Magazine.

Posted by Weave Zine at 11:12 AM

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En The Pedestal Magazine, por Joselle Vanderhooft.

The Curse of Eve and Other Stories

Liliana Blum (Toshiya Kamei, translator)

Host Publications

Reviewer: JoSelle Vanderhooft

In his watershed book Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” In The Curse of Eve and Other Stories, Mexican writer Liliana Blum has refined the human desperation of which Thoreau speaks. In fact, her characters often approach the various cruelties in their lives—the infidelities or inattentions of spouses, the disappointments and inadequacies of children, the hopeless longings for love, or at least meaningful sex—with an understated sense of shell-shock that has become the default emotional setting for many in the modern world.


The discontent between contemporary husbands and wives is a major theme to which Blum returns in several of her stories. Sometimes, as in “Better Halves,” and “Stalin’s Wife,” a break-up is literal and abrupt, the result of a concealed or obvious affair or, as in “The Canary,” male-on-female domestic violence. But in the majority of Blum’s stories as, indeed, in the majority of unhappy lives, the discontent is not as dramatic as a broken marriage vow or a broken jaw. The poison instead lies in the silences and contempt bred by spousal familiarity and the inequalities of socially-imposed gender roles. In “The Hours of the Morning” a nameless wife awakens minutes before her husband “feeling certain she existed.” But as she contemplates the thankless tasks before her—cooking, cleaning, sending the children off to school and receiving “a kiss…as artificial as their daily routine” from her husband as he leaves for work—her certainty fades, and even her desperate thoughts about murdering her family are no consolation. “A Perfect Day for Canned Tuna” uses the device of an accidentally burned dinner to highlight the silent misery of a couple whose disappointment in each other is so paralyzing that they can’t bring themselves to ask for a separation, let alone discuss their problems.

Out of all of Blum’s husband and wife stories, “The Book Can Still be Mended” best highlights these numbing silences between spouses. Here bibliophile Don Buenaventura ignores his wife María de las Maravillas’s increasingly vivid premonition that she will soon lose her eyesight.

“Didn’t you hear me? Of course not, you never listen to me,” she said, almost to herself. She sank into the couch, leaned her head back, and opened her eyes. At the upper corner of the wall, a shiny cobweb seemed to hold the entire weight of the old house. She looked up at the ceiling and noticed flecks of paint peeling off, like the skin of her knuckles after washing the sweat-stained collars of Buenaventura’s shirts.

“Yes, I heard you. You’re going blind. I’m not deaf yet. What you’re telling me is old news. With the passage of time, you’ll lose your senses, one by one, until you die. You’re not discovering anything new, María.”

“I thought you didn’t hear me. Why didn’t you answer me?”

“I heard you, but I have nothing to say. What’s the point in worrying about the inevitable? Besides, I’m reading. I need light. And peace and quiet. I want you to stop interrupting me.”

Faced to handle her fears by herself, María learns to accomplish her household tasks blindfolded. And one day her premonition comes true: while carrying her knitting needles back to their basket (and with her eyes shut), she falls and pierces her left eye on one of them. When her husband finds her, he notices not his bleeding wife, but the book that she has damaged in her fall.

“I must’ve dropped it last night when I fell asleep,” he thought. He hesitated for a few seconds. He picked up the book and decided to try to glue the torn pages together. “Maybe it can still be mended.”

This is the blackest of black humor, a technique that Blum knows well and employs skillfully. Sometimes the effect is purely and disturbingly comedic as in “Requiem for a Cherub,” in which a father lets his bratty son fall to his gory death in a polar bear cage. “I just told him it was the Coca-Cola polar bear, the one who gives away soft drinks in the Christmas parade. I think the kid was thirsty,” he explains to the grief-stricken mother. In “God Bless Ron Jeremy,” a woman tells a former lover that a fling with the titular porn star led to her joining a convent (“After Ron Jeremy, I couldn’t be with anyone else. It would be cruel to him, unfair to me. And then the Holy Spirit called me.”) But Blum is at her most effective when she uses her gift for humor to evoke a gasp of shock or pain instead of a guffaw. A mother in “Bride Wanted,” for example, is so desperate for her pedophile son to find a wife and lead a normal life that she fails to listen to him when he says that his girlfriend is barely eighteen and is raising several younger siblings. And in the book’s most gruesome and uncomfortable story, “A Model Kit,” a serial killer who would make Hannibal Lecter proud brutally dismembers a young woman for a painting—only to have feminist critics praise him for his “raw representation of a modern woman who is forced to live in a brutal and chauvinistic society.”

Indeed, violence against women and children is a cornerstone on which many of the stories in The Curse of Eve rest, whether obviously as in “A Model Kit” or more subtly as in the titular tale, which lays out the thankless and cruel life that women not only in Blum’s culture but in every culture face: the grueling demands of childbirth, motherhood and husbands who insist that wives look their best while catering to their every need.

Although Blum’s concerns transcend cultures, one would be remiss (not to mention disturbingly Anglocentric) to review The Curse of Eve without commenting on the parts of it that are distinctly Mexican. In imagery, pacing and narrative flair Blum is very much the student of not only such Mexican writers as Laura Esquivel but also Chilean-American Isabel Allende and Columbian Gabriel García Márquez (to whose works a few of Blum’s stories obliquely refer). Blum is a master of subtlety and her selective employment of “magical realism”—whether María’s premonition of blindness in “The Book Can Still Be Mended” or the sudden, perhaps karmic, death of an old man in “The Scorpion of Almond” (quoted below)—infuses her stories with surprise while never exceeding to the point of overkill:

Once, on his birthday, he received a scorpion made of almond sugar paste. His mother had warned him that a real scorpion would kill him instantly. During all those years in Durango, and until that very day, Laureano has been lucky enough to dodge the deadly scorpions. Still, there are some dates that cannot be avoided.

The creature begins to crawl up the old man’s arm. Just as the sting pierces his flesh, Laureano recalls the distant past and cries childishly.

The stories in The Curse of Eve are troubling, and few are at all hopeful. Indeed, the only real hope to be found in Blum’s world is that of remaining alive despite the worst and most outrageous of abuses that life—and other humans—can offer. However, Blum masterfully illuminates the toxic silences of human relationships, and her book will be essential reading not only for fans of Mexican literature, but also for all who appreciate seeing human matters fully and painfully revealed.

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Tom Dooley, editor de la revista Eclectica, sobre The Curse of Eve:

Liliana V. Blum’s work often concerns women whose innocence has been violated, thwarted, shamed, and exploited by the very forces so invested in maintaining their purity: society, the church, even their parents. Their struggles and short-lived victories are as timeless as Eve’s, but Blum is not afraid to give her Eves vaginas and pink panties, and she employs fruit as more than a symbol of knowledge. The resulting tales are an engaging mix of traditional Mexican storytelling and modernist sensibilities, of allegory and highly personalized narrative, of lush imagery and matter of fact sexuality.

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2 comentarios to “Reseñas”

  1. Digtouro-online septiembre 28, 2010 a 10:36 #

    Por que no:)

    • Liliana V. Blum septiembre 28, 2010 a 10:37 #

      😀

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