Portrait of an Unknown Lady

(Author) (Translator)
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$24.00  $22.32
Publish Date
5.8 X 8.3 X 0.7 inches | 0.75 pounds

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About the Author

María Gainza was born in Buenos Aires, where she still resides. She has worked as a correspondent for The New York Times in Argentina, as well as for ARTnews. She has also been a contributor to Artforum, The Buenos Aires Review, Radar, the cultural supplement from Argentine newspaper Página/12. She is coeditor of the collection Los Sentidos (The Senses) on Argentinean art, and in 2011 she published Textos elegidos (Selected Texts).

Thomas Bunstead has translated some of the leading Spanish-­language writers working today, including Bernardo Atxaga, Agustín Fernández Mallo, and Enrique Vila-­Matas, and his own writing has appeared in publications such as Brixton Review of Books, Lit Hub, and The White Review. He is currently a Royal Literary Fellow teaching at Aberystwyth University. He was born in London and now lives in Pembrokeshire, Wales.


A Town and Country Must-Read Book of Spring
A CrimeReads Best International Crime Book of the Month

The unnamed narrator in Portrait of an Unknown Lady, María Gainza's crepuscular but dreamy novel, looks back over a life led in the shadow of imposture . . . The naughty pleasure of this novel is bound up in our fascination with fakes, especially when executed in the cavalier mode of Robin Hood. --Angus Trumble, The New York Times Book Review

Argentine art critic and novelist María Gainza's Portrait of an Unknown Lady takes an unorthodox perspective on the modern-art market, offering a kind of homage to the underworld of forgery . . . Ms. Gainza proves herself a dab hand at concisely digesting artists' lives, finding delight in idiosyncrasy and social rebellion. --Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

María Gainza's Portrait of an Unknown Lady, translated from Spanish by Thomas Bunstead, takes a more philosophical look at the art world by questioning what constitutes an artist. The titular portrait is figurative; our narrator, a disillusioned art critic in Buenos Aires using the nom de plume María Lydis, is investigating a mysterious figure . . . Bunstead's colorful translation reads at times as an adventure serial, at times as a hard-boiled noir, and throughout it all, María uses her wit, erudition and sass to suss out the true meaning of art. --Cory Oldweiler, The Washington Post

Gainza weaves a fascinating, often confounding story about beauty, obsession and authenticity . . . Like Bolaño, she writes stories within stories, each with its own melancholy mood and unsolvable mystery . . . A novel with many beautiful, confounding moments. Maria Gainza is sharp, modern and playful, a writer who multiplies the possibilities for fiction. --Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Guardian

"A truly exquisite novel . . . moving, clever and written with a wry precision." --Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman

There's a lot to like in Portrait of an Unknown Lady, from the slick Argentinian high-society setting, to the lovely writing and laudable translation from Bunstead. --Ian J. Battaglia, Chicago Review of Books

Intelligent and tensile . . . A loose investigation into the nature of art and of memory, scattered with gems of intrigue and insight. --Emily Temple, Lit Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

A mesmerizing deep dive into the art world through a neo-noir female detective's quest to find a forger in Buenos Aires . . . Dreamy and atmospheric . . . Portrait of an Unknown Lady, eschewing structure and neat plot convention for vibrant language and a hypnotic voice, complicates rather than clarifies the stories that are told about enigmatic women. --Shelf Awareness (starred review)

This captivating work is one to savor. --Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed review)

The work of an author in full command of her talents. The result is an exploration of identity and authenticity that asks what it means to be 'real, ' as the term is applied either to a work of art or to a life . . . Subtle, incandescent, and luminous--a true master's work. --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The mutable, esoteric art world is again the setting for award-winning Argentinian Gainza's latest, deftly translated by British writer-editor Bunstead . . . Shrewd audiences will surely enjoy the engrossing challenge of an unpredictable pursuit. --Booklist

There are many pleasures to be had in reading Portrait of an Unknown Lady its sublime, transcendent sentences, its arch and shadowy figures. Most of all, the zone to which you are transported, which is a Buenos Aires of canvases, trap doors, and dreams. --Amina Cain, author of Indelicacy

Vividly detailed and saturated with intricate feeling, Gainza's novel is an engrossing exploration of authenticity, obsession, and the enveloping allure of art. --Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun