A Perfect Cemetery
Charco Press are quite a niche press, based in Edinburgh, who have made it their mission to publish Latin American literature and bring it to new readers in the English-speaking world. I absolutely love what they’re about and am so happy to be reviewing this book for them!
A Perfect Cemetery is a collection of five short stories (each around 20-50 pages in length) translated from Spanish. In every story there is a protagonist who experiences some sort of loss or who lives outside of respectable society in some way. There was a melancholic edge to the collection which gave it soul, as well as being beautifully written and original in plot.
My favourite story was ‘A Perfect Cemetery’ which follows cemetery architect, Victor Bagiardelli, as he’s commissioned to build a new cemetery in a small town in the middle of nowhere. The mayor of the town is conscious that his own father is ailing and wants only the best grave to bury him in, but much of the townsfolk are against the build which further complicates things. A lot of the story is about Bagiardelli’s passion for building the most elaborate cemeteries, but it’s also about the strange relationship between the mayor and his father. This one was undoubtedly the highlight of the collection for me.
The rest of the stories were also very good (although I didn’t much enjoy the ‘Forest Life’) and overall they fit really well together as a collection. This is something I’ve struggled with in a lot of short stories that I’ve read, although I suppose it’s made easier by the fact that each story was written and translated by the same two people.
Often I think that translators don’t get enough credit for what they do and Jennifer Croft’s essay at the end of this collection, which discusses specific challenges she faced and her minute attention to detail in the translation of Falco’s work, is evidence of this. Croft’s translation really allowed the genius of Falco’s writing to come across, so I’m definitely interested to read more from both of them in the future!