The Things We Don't Do

Open Letter. Sept. 2015. 190p. tr. from Spanish by Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia. ISBN 9781940953182. pap. $13.95; ebk. ISBN 9781940953199. F
Born in Argentina but currently a resident of Spain, Neuman is the author of two earlier successful novels: the Alfaguara Prize-winning Traveler of the Century and Talking to Ourselves. This anthology of 36 stories, culled from several collections published contemporaneously with his novel-writing career, is in such a totally different vein thatone might not recognize that they're by the same author. These short stories—indeed, many are very short—offer offbeat scenarios and absurd situations. A few examples: a man gives birth ("Delivery"). A psychiatrist andpatient switch roles ("Juan, José"). A wife buys the same jacket twice as a gift for her husband ("Second-Hand"). A chair waits for someone to sit in it ("A Chair for Somebody"). A man goes to work naked ("Clothes"). The collection concludes with four dodecalogs that serve as a sort of ars poetica of Neuman's short-story craft.
VERDICT Casual readers may be put off by the bizarre nature and sometimes obscure style of these pieces, but those who enjoy the macabre of Roberto Bolaño, the fantastic of Julio Cortázar, or the metaphysical of Jorge Luis Borges (who makes an appearance in one of them) will be rewarded.

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