Latam BookLook: "Fever dream" by Samanta Schweblin

This terrifying and suffocating novel tells a story where nothing is as it seems and the danger is closer than you think

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What is it about?

Fever Dream tells the story of a mother and her little daughter, Amanda and Nina, who travel to the holiday camp and stay in a rented house next to a lake. It is in that place where Amanda will meet Carla, mother as she is, with whom she establishes a friendship.

Leer en español: Latam BookLook: "Distancia de rescate" de Samanta Schweblin
The narrative begins with an unknown male voice talking to Amanda about worms, worms that are everywhere, even in her body that cannot move. "For the worms," says the voice.

In this way begins this disturbing story where Amanda, without knowing it, will discover a terrible secret about the place where she is and the people that inhabit it.

A secret about a green house and a poisoned child who has lost half his soul as a result of a transmigration ritual to save his life, so he has become a monster. A secret that involves Carla and her son David, and that can cost her and her daughter their lives.

The field will no longer be the same, it will be transformed into a terrifying, suffocating and poisonous space from which Amanda will want to flee along with Nina. This is when that voice will play a very important role, to the extent that it will be configured as a kind of personal guide to a tragic end.

In the middle of all this appears that invisible thread that unites Amanda and her daughter, with whom the protagonist measures the safe distance that can exist between both, that will be tensed more and more at the time when the danger is getting closer.

Who wrote it?

Samanta Schweblin is an Argentine writer born in 1978. She has won several awards, such as the National Fund for the Arts (2001), the Juan Rulfo Prize (2002) and the Casa de las Américas Award in 2008, the Tigre Juan Award (2015), and the Shirley Jackson Award (2018).

Her first work is The Core of the Disturbance, in 2002. Then, in 2009, came Birds in the Mouth, which has been translated into 13 languages, catapulting it to the international scene.

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Later came her first novel, Fever Dream, which was published in 2014 and made it worthy of Tiger John and Shirley Jackson. A year later, she launched Seven Empty Houses, a work that was followed by Cave Breath (2017) and Kentukis (2018).

Do I read it or not?

There is something in Schweblin's narrative, at least as far as this book is concerned, that reminds me of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and E.T. A. Hoffmann. Maybe it's those dramatic tensions that she builds with perfection or that air of the ominous that is breathed around, suffocating and terrifying, that remains hidden, something that is intentional.

"It seems to me that the tension, which has so much imminence, fear, a little terror of suspense, also has something divine that takes you to a state of maximum attention," she said in an interview with Pousta.

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This is a novel that hooks you from the first page and whose main narrators, Amanda and the voice, take you to those peaks of maximum tension, of great terror. They are dragging you in an increasingly distressing world where the reality seen from the look of it begins to distort.

Would do I recommend this book?

At first sight, it looks like a short novel of terror: the story of Amanda and Nina, of Carla and David. However, if you reread it more than once you can realize the whole apparatus behind it.

It may well be a book that deals with the subject of motherhood and even paternity, about that fear of parents to lose their children, but it can also be configured as a social criticism, as an environmental complaint, as she mentioned it once. Schweblin in an interview with Arcadia magazine.

On the other hand, it can be everything, but what is certain is that Fever Dream is a cosmos with a beautiful visual, almost cinematic narrative. A cosmos in which the important thing is often not what we imagine, which is why all the time that voice insists on the necessary observations.

A cosmos where nothing is what it seems, neither the countryside nor the people; where the real danger may be closer than we think: in ourselves, consuming us like worms. You just have to pay attention to the details.

LatinAmerican Post | Diana Rojas Leal
Translated from “Latam BookLook: "Distancia de rescate" de Samanta Schweblin”

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