A taxidermied parrot, insulted by a stodgy uncle, comes violently alive and batters the poor fool to death with its beak. A terrible tyrant, Zar Palemón, presides over grotesque ritualized sex acts in his court--which is itself contained in a demonic gemstone the size of a fist. And deep in the Andes, in a hidden cave, an unremarkable house cat waits to trap its hapless victim with a Gorgon's gaze and engage him in a staring contest on which the fate of the cosmos just might depend.
Such are a few of the bizarre adventures found within Juan Emar's mind-bending collection of short stories, Ten. Allegory? Parody? Horror? Surrealism? Yes to all, and none of the above: where lesser writers mark their end-point, the unclassifiable Juan Emar jumps off, straight into the deep end. Life is far from still in Emar's world, where statues come alive, gaseous vampires stalk, and our hopes and fears materialize in a web of shocking interconnections unified by twisted logic and crystalline prose.
Now, Ten is available in English for the first time, deftly translated by Megan McDowell and with an introduction by César Aira, who writes: "Emar has neither precedents nor equals; his echoes and affinities--Lautréamont, Macedonio Fernández, Gombrowicz--flow from his readers' own inclinations." Byzantine and vivid, intricate and bizarre, this quiver of shorts by Chile's most idiosyncratic mad genius of literature will leave readers astounded for decades to come.
About the Author
Juan Emar is the pen name of Chilean writer, painter, and art critic Álvaro Yánez Bianchi. Born in Chile in 1893, he was a strong advocate of the artistic avant-garde of the 1920s and 30s, and his critical writings helped revolutionize the art scene in his country. Under-appreciated in his time, he is now considered to be one of the most important 20th-century Latin American writers.
Megan McDowell is a Spanish-language literary translator from Kentucky. Her work includes books by Alejandro Zambra, Samanta Schweblin, Lina Meruane, Mariana Enríquez, Álvaro Bisama, Arturo Fontaine, and Juan Emar. Her translations have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Tin House, McSweeney's, Words Without Borders, Mandorla, and VICE, among others. Her translation of Zambra's novel Ways of Going Home won the 2013 PEN Award for Writing in Translation. She lives in Santiago, Chile.
Juan Emar, ahead of his time, was no doubt writing for readers of the future, and it's as arrogant as it is exciting to suppose that those readers of the future are us.--Alejandro Zambra
Juan Emar, the Chilean writer who bears a marked resemblance to the monument to the unknown soldier.--Roberto Bolaño
The forerunner of them all.--Pablo Neruda
The wonder of Emar's universe doesn't derive from the numerological matrix of his structure, or even the secret code he used to criticize the literary conservatism of his day, but in his imagination, which explodes like the big bang and overflows, giving rise to all possibilities.--Roberto Wong "Letras Libres"
Emar has no precents, and no equals.--César Aira
Weird and charming.--Hanson O'Haver "The Nation"