Underground River and Other Stories

Underground River and Other Stories

by Ines Arredondo
     
 

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Inés Arredondo (1928–1989) published just three slim volumes of stories over twenty-three years, yet her reputation as a great writer, “a necessary writer,” is firmly established in Mexico. Her works dwell on obsessions: erotic love, evil, purity, perversion, prostitution, tragic separation, and death. Most of her characters are involved

Overview


Inés Arredondo (1928–1989) published just three slim volumes of stories over twenty-three years, yet her reputation as a great writer, “a necessary writer,” is firmly established in Mexico. Her works dwell on obsessions: erotic love, evil, purity, perversion, prostitution, tragic separation, and death. Most of her characters are involved in ill-fated searches for the Absolute through both excessively passionate and sadomasochistic relationships. Inevitably, the perfect, pure dyad of two youthful lovers is interrupted or corrupted through the interference of a third party (a rival lover or a child), aging, death, or public morality.

Set at the beginning of the twentieth century in the tropical northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, the stories collected in Underground River and Other Stories focus on female subjectivity. Arredondo’s adult male characters are often predators, depraved collectors of adolescent virgins, like the plantation owners in “The Nocturnal Butterflies” and “Shadows in the Shadows” and the dying uncle in “The Shunammite,” who is kept alive by incestuous lust. Since the young female protagonists rarely have fathers to protect them, the only thing standing between them and these lechers are older women. Perversely, these older women act as accomplices–along with the extended family and the Roman Catholic Church–in the sordid age-old traffic in women.

Underground River and Other Stories is the first appearance of Arredondo’s stories in English.

 

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

“Underground River and Other Stories is nothing short of spellbinding. Mostly set in a small town in northwestern Mexico at the beginning of this century, it provides a stunning expression of the erotic perversity found in seemingly ordinary lives. . . . [Arredondo] is one of modern Mexico’s most highly regarded writers. Cynthia Steele’s able translation, the first appearance of Arredondo’s work in English, should secure a new audience for her powerful and distinctive voice.”—Jenny McPhee, New York Times Book Review

— Jenny McPhee

British Bulletin of Publications

“This selection provides a very good introduction to [Arredondo’s] work, fascinating stories that open up a vista of decadence and passion, and relate some of the ways in which our rationality can be overruled by our desires. . . . A rare delight for short story lovers.”—British Bulletin of Publications

Jerusalem Post

“Essential reading or anybody who can appreciate a writer’s genius for expressing passion in every shade of the lexical rainbow. The focus is anguish: a subject which touches every life.”—Leslie Cohen, Jerusalem Post

— Leslie Cohen

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

“These twelve stories, taken from Inés Arredondo’s three short-story collections and chosen shortly before her death in November 1989, are an excellent and appropriate reflection of the range and depth of her work. . . . . The introduction by Cynthia Steele and foreword by Elena Poniatowska offer helpful insights into Arredondo’s life and an assessment of her work.”—Nuala Finnegan, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

— Nuala Finnegan

Booklist

“The fruity, fecund texture of [Arredondo’s] prose, as lushly rendered by Cynthia Steele, marks her unmistakably as a writer of the tropics—one, moreover, who employs the wild and elaborate themes of erotic obsession, excessively passionate love, and depravity often associated with that region. . . . Arredondo’s strengths will doubtless secure for her a posthumous reputation throughout the Americas equal to the one she already enjoys in Mexico.”—Whitney Scott, Booklist

— Whitney Scott

New York Times Book Review - Jenny McPhee

“Underground River and Other Stories is nothing short of spellbinding. Mostly set in a small town in northwestern Mexico at the beginning of this century, it provides a stunning expression of the erotic perversity found in seemingly ordinary lives. . . . [Arredondo] is one of modern Mexico’s most highly regarded writers. Cynthia Steele’s able translation, the first appearance of Arredondo’s work in English, should secure a new audience for her powerful and distinctive voice.”—Jenny McPhee, New York Times Book Review

Jerusalem Post - Leslie Cohen

“Essential reading or anybody who can appreciate a writer’s genius for expressing passion in every shade of the lexical rainbow. The focus is anguish: a subject which touches every life.”—Leslie Cohen, Jerusalem Post

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies - Nuala Finnegan

“These twelve stories, taken from Inés Arredondo’s three short-story collections and chosen shortly before her death in November 1989, are an excellent and appropriate reflection of the range and depth of her work. . . . . The introduction by Cynthia Steele and foreword by Elena Poniatowska offer helpful insights into Arredondo’s life and an assessment of her work.”—Nuala Finnegan, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Booklist - Whitney Scott

“The fruity, fecund texture of [Arredondo’s] prose, as lushly rendered by Cynthia Steele, marks her unmistakably as a writer of the tropics—one, moreover, who employs the wild and elaborate themes of erotic obsession, excessively passionate love, and depravity often associated with that region. . . . Arredondo’s strengths will doubtless secure for her a posthumous reputation throughout the Americas equal to the one she already enjoys in Mexico.”—Whitney Scott, Booklist

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Reading Arredondo is not unlike watching certain Buuel movies: women who are both passive and powerful dominate stories that are charged with madness and (generally unnatural) eroticism. Arredondo's style and her subjects are subtle and rather rarefied. In the half dozen or so longer pieces among the 12 here, readers lose themselves in that world, and its oddness comes as a delightful frisson. In shorter pieces (some are just a couple of paragraphs), the same style and subject can seem merely stiff and pretentious. The five longest pieces are truly outstanding. Both "The Shunammite," about a young woman forced to marry an ancient, wealthy uncle in extremis only to have lust pull him back from the grave, and "The Mirrors," about a girl's tragic parentage, reflect cruel interweavings of destiny and character. They are eclipsed by three stories set in rich, enervated households ruled by perversion ("The Nocturnal Butterflies," "Shadow in the Shadows") or, as in the title story, by madness. "Underground River" is not really a story but more of a plea from the narrator to her nephew, begging him never to visit or think of her and telling how she has become the gatekeeper of the family's insanity. "I have led a solitary life for many years, a woman alone in this immense house, a cruel and exquisite life," she explains to him in a prologue that might characterize many of Arredondo's characters and stories. "I have a destiny but it isn't mine. I have to live my life according to other people's destinies." (June)
Library Journal
Arredondo, a relatively obscure Mexican writer, published only about 30 stories in three volumes before her death in 1989. These 12 stories, culled from those collections, offer a fine sampling of her work, available for the first time in English. Most are set at the turn of the century in the northwestern state of Sinaloa and deal with such universal themes as love, death, evil, and concubinage. The author often captures the readers' attention at the outset with arresting first lines ("Great lovers don't have any children") and thereafter does not fail to deliver. Though viewed from an obviously female perspective, many of these tales are wrapped in an enigma that defy conventional interpretation. The fluid translations by a noted Hispanic scholar are commendable. Recommended for general readers.Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, Ohio

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780803259270
Publisher:
University of Nebraska Press
Publication date:
03/08/2004
Series:
Latin American Women Writers Series
Pages:
130
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.36(d)

Meet the Author


Cynthia Steele is an associate professor of Romance languages at the University of Washington and the author of Politics, Gender, and the Mexican Novel, 1968–1988: Beyond the Pyramid. Elena Poniatowska, who helped Steele choose these stories, is one of the most renowned of Mexico’s new generation of writers. Among her works translated into English are Frida Kahlo: The Camera Seduced, Massacre in Mexico, and Dear Diego.

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