On Lighthouses

Product Details
$12.95  $12.04
Two Lines Press
Publish Date
4.5 X 7.0 X 0.8 inches | 0.4 pounds

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate
About the Author

Jazmina Barrera was born in Mexico City in 1988. She was a fellow at the Foundation for Mexican Letters. Her book of essays Cuerpo extraño (Foreign Body) was awarded the Latin American Voices prize from Literal Publishing in 2013. She has published her work in various print and digital media, such as Nexos, Este País, Dossier, Vice, and more. She is editor and co-founder of Ediciones Antílope. She lives in Mexico City.

Christina MacSweeney received the 2016 Valle Inclan prize for her translation of Valeria Luiselli's The Story of My Teeth, and Among Strange Victims (Daniel Saldaña París) was a finalist in the 2017 Best Translated Book Award. Among the other authors she has translated are: Elvira Navarro (A Working Woman), Verónica Gerber Bicecci (Empty Set; Palabras migrantes/Migrant Words), and Julián Herbert (Tomb Song; The House of the Pain of Others). She is currently working on a second novel by Daniel Saldaña París and her translations of short story collection by Elvira Navarro and Julián Herbert will be published in 2020.


"Lighthouses, the 'frontier between civilization and nature, ' are places of solitude. But they are also signals of shore and home. This book is a light at the end of the tunnel, showing us places we'll see and things we'll do when we can go out again."--The Paris Review

"Precise and erudite, Barrera's writing is as alluring and arresting as the landscapes and stories it conveys. Each piece is crafted with care, imbued with Barrera's poignant critical sense and her perspicacious ability to unravel the different levels of affect, historicity, and magnificence that constitute the everyday life of each lighthouse." --Los Angeles Review of Books

"[On Lighthouses] appears on the surface to be six poignant personal essays littered with intriguing references to lighthouses, their keepers and their myriad influences on literature and art throughout history, [but] what comes through is a dark and often obsessive meditation on what it feels like to squirrel yourself away from the world and embrace isolation in the name of pursuing a passion...something beyond just a good-natured study of shipwrecks and their saviors." --San Francisco Chronicle

"Barrera's obsession is contagious. Her graceful sentences ensnare tidbits of history and tantalizing glimpses of her own life, accompanied by delicate sketches of lighthouses she's visited, making this book a refuge from everyday life, a place of enchantment and safety." --Shelf Awareness (starred review)

"On Lighthouses hypnotizes in all the ways a book ought to, calling to mind the very nature of books. Meek and pale, washed ashore of life's rapid tides, the reader and her book are already strange figures in our world, lonely spirts drifting for hours alone, outside of time and place. In this sense--in Barrera's sense--a book is a lighthouse and its reader the sunken-eyed keeper haunting its hollow passages, lighting its searchlight night after night. And we've only just stuck our toe in." --AirMail Weekly

"[Jazmina Barrera's On Lighthouses] examines literature, history, science, art, music, and the daily, brutal lives of the isolated keepers and their families. . . . These subtle, reflective observations offer delightful insights into the lighthouse mystique." --Kirkus Reviews

"The attentive lyricism of [Barrera's] self-exploration pulls the reader steadily along the craggy coastlines of the world. Her language, reflected in MacSweeney's crystal clear translation, is grounded and tranquil, at times contrasting with the turmoil of grief and isolation that Barrera feels throughout her travels.... [On Lighthouses] is a multifaceted collection, vibrant in its constant search for more iterative complexity, meant to be read slowly and considerately." --Entropy

"Barrera's tight focus provides the binding that holds her book together. The writing itself is characterized by clipped passages and abrupt transitions - not unlike the staccato flashes of light, the unique blink patterns emitted by individual lighthouses....The emotional weight is conveyed in the author's omissions, the negative spaces created by what is withheld." --Tara Cheesman, On the Seawall

"Through its fascination with lighthouses: their mythologies, histories, operational minutia, iconic personages (all those anonymous lighthouse keepers of every coast); and also with concise poetic prose about Barrera's lighthouse-obsessed wanderings, this book will literally enchant you. To read Jazmina Barrera's extraordinary book is to find a little lighthouse inside yourself, one that will go on emitting a roaming, yearning, beckoning, consoling loveliness."--Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name

Like a bowerbird constructing its nest, Jazmina Barrera collects microhistories about the hypnotic, geometric light emitted by lighthouses; but when she finds and listens to these histories in the dark intervals, she is a bat hanging upside down in the tower of memory. --Verónica Gerber Bicecci, author of Empty Set

"This is a glorious, beckoning story, catching enlightening glimpses of literature and vivid experience in its flashing beams; beautifully written, it is as evocative and as alluring as a lighthouse glimpsed on a distant headland from a dark and mysterious sea." --Philip Hoare, author of RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR

"Jazmina Barrera has woven a narrative that is both poetic and informative, full of bizarre and particular details as well as suggestions that reverberate throughout, much like musical motifs. The lighthouses contained in this notebook are real lighthouses that still light up at night on coasts throughout the world as well as lighthouses that faded centuries ago, and a few lighthouses that never existed, mythological lighthouses and engineers' projects, lighthouses that are undoubtedly gifted with a symbolism that passed through the history of literature and that seem to be located in a very deep part of our psychological vocabulary, of the catalogue of images that exist just as vividly both in reality and in dreams."--Antonio Muñoz Molina, author of Sepharad

If my intuition is right, and we are in fact witnessing the emergence of a new encyclopedic passion in Latin American literature, this book will be a benchmark in the future of this movement."--Patricio Pron, author of My Father's Ghost is Climbing in the Rain