MAriana Enriquez, 48, lives in Buenos Aires. She has written nine books, including two collections of short stories, The dangers of smoking in bed And the Things we lost in the fireBoth are translated from Spanish Megan McDowell. In 2019, Enriquez won Spain’s Premio Herralde Prize, previously awarded to Javier Marias and Roberto Bolaño, for Our share of the night, her first novel to be translated into English, is also written by McDowell. The film revolves around a father and son whose ability to communicate with the dead draws them to a bloodthirsty cult in Argentina under the junta. Kazuo Ishiguro wrote last year The “beautiful and awful world” of Enriquez’s writings “is my most exciting discovery in fiction for some time.”
what or what Attracts you to the horror genre?
It is very difficult to write about Argentina using only realism. In the 50s and 60s, there was a strong tradition of fantasy fiction here: Borges, Silvina Ocampo, Julio Cortázar. Then the entire region was politicized with the dictatorship [1976-1983]And the results of the Cuban revolution and the intervention of America. This led to Sartre’s dilemma of literature that should be political and speak of the times, but of course Sartre never said that literature should be realistic, only that it should be concerned with what is going on. I think what happened to people like me growing up in the ’80s and ’90s are those murder movies, Stephen King and Twin Peaks Everyone mingled with our reality filled with the language of horror: the disappeared, the children of the dead, the children of the lost generation…
Do those realistic atrocities justify your more established scenes?
I don’t think there is a need for moral justification but these things happened here. The women had children in captivity and the children were stolen. They were torturing the people next to your house. They threw the bodies into the ocean. I understand the [notion of] respect but I do not want to be complicit in any kind of silence; Being shy about terrorizing things is also dangerous. I might turn the volume up to 11 because of the genre I like to work in, but this genre sheds light on the real horror that gets lost in the [a phrase like] Political violence.
Is this violence part of the appeal of Latin American novels abroad?
There are a lot of fictional stories from the region that deal with violence and suffering. You can worry that readers [abroad] You don’t understand the context and they are just consuming it for its madness. But as a writer, if these things affect your life this is your subject, what would you do? The only solution for me is to talk about it and explain it. I try to be close to the reader, close to the media: if I have to give you a history lesson, that’s not a problem. One of the problems is that we are used to reading in translation when other countries are not. We know more about your history than you do about ours. There are two ways to deal with that. Get angry at inequality. Or try to explain what is happening.
How has your work been received in Argentina?
I was terrified when I published my first short story with this type of literature [Back When We Talked to the Dead]. These girls play a Ouija board and try to communicate with the disappeared in order to become famous by knowing where the bodies are. Then history slaps them in a supernatural way: Don’t be silly. I was afraid that the human rights organizations working here would think I was making fun of them.
But what really happened was that my work inserted itself into a new genre. In my generation there are many children of the disappeared. Many of them started writing about it in ways that were ridiculous, strange, or even funny — stories about what they would do with the state’s support for them to kill their parents, for example. That opened the door to a new sense of what had happened. I was doing something different, but I wasn’t alone.
How did you deal with writing male-only sex scenes? Our share of the night?
I have male testers telling me how I’m out of line! My first novel was a love story between two men. I wrote it when I was 17 – it was published when I was 21 – and knew nothing in those days; was the main source My own Idaho. I watched a lot of porn with my gay friends, who were like: “This kind of acrobatic stuff is really hard actually…that takes a little practice.” Two gay male friends telling me things [about their sex lives] I ask them what is wrong with me. I say: one: is this possible? The second: Is it hot? “
Who have you been reading lately?
Monica Ojeda, from Ecuador – she’s totally crooked. Less brutal but also amazing another writer from Argentina, Maria Gainza. She makes a self-novel, something I don’t, but she mixes it with art and other things. Lots of writers do it, but I don’t think anyone does it like Maria. She belongs – or used to belong – to the upper class here, the elite, of whom French was their first language. They’ve lost all their money, so there’s some kind of devastating decadence for her work.
The name of the book that made you want to write.
My uncle Stephen King gave me a pet Somaya one birthday. I think he was thinking: “It’s a bestseller, the girl loves to read, she has a cat on her cover…” I read it when everyone was asleep, and I probably fainted after the festivities, and I was so scared that I had to throw it away. But I picked it up again and kept reading. I remember thinking, Oh my God, I’d really like to make people feel something real like this under their skin. It is clearly an account of how afraid he was of losing his family. I was 12 or 13 but you understand that at that age too; You never think it’s just about the supernatural. Everything I learned about mixing reality and horror, I learned from Stephen King.
Our share of the night By Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell, published 13 October by Granta (£18.99). to support guardian And the observer Request your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply