PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
From the powers of the madwoman and the midwives to various events that take place in Serrano, Salustio uses magic realism wisely and sparingly.
Above all, Salustio tells a wonderfully inventive story, mixing in magic realism, creative story-telling, the strange behaviour of a group of people in a remote village, family saga, city vs country, women’s issue, sex and, inevitably, tragedy.
'For one thing, although many of the elements of the story sound familiar, their handling is not. Realism and myth crash together in a strange and jagged interaction that sees the modern, urban world of microwaves, therapy sessions and business deals grate against ancient rites, hearsay and magic. A death certificate shows that a man has been poisoned by strange thoughts; apparently infertile women go to the city for ‘pharmaceuticals’ that turn out not to be quite what they seem; and the mysterious madwoman of the title makes predictions that play out on city streets, as well as in the rural dreamscape of the village.
This stark juxtaposition is reflected on the linguistic level, with translator Jethro Soutar often reaching for words from diverse registers to capture the story’s massive range. At times you can almost feel the narrative straining with the effort of containing all Salústio wants to say, breaking out into a series of surprising digressions, many of which yield some of the book’s most joyful passages. The small section about the unusual role of cats in Serrano, for example, is as pleasing as it is unexpected...'
It’s a strange and wondrous story that digs into all the BS of toxic masculinity, all the damage it does to people of all genders. As a now-grown, successful Filipa looks back on her childhood from the shelter of the city, the novel digs deep into the insularity and secretive community of this small town.