cover image The Houseguest

The Houseguest

Amparo Dávila, trans. from the Spanish by Audrey Harris and Matthew Gleeson. New Directions, $14.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2821-3

These 12 stories from Dávila are the first of the Mexican author’s to be translated into English and show her terrifying knack for letting horror seep into the commonplace and the domestic. In “Moses and Gaspar,” a man takes in his recently deceased brother’s pets and finds his life disintegrating; the story is all the more haunting because the reader never knows exactly what creatures the two pets are. In the title story, a woman’s distracted husband brings a mysterious man to their house, and the woman becomes unsettled by his lurking presence. In one of the best stories, “Musique Concrète,” a man’s longtime friend, Marcela, discovers that her husband is cheating on her. At night, Marcela is threateningly visited by the other woman, who resembles a toad. Filled with nightmarish imagery (“Sometimes I saw hundreds of small eyes fastened to the dripping windowpanes”) and creeping dread, Dávila’s stories plunge into the nature of fear, proving its force no matter if its origin is physical or psychological, real or imagined: “Even if [she] is exaggerating, these things do exist and they have destroyed her, they exist like these flames dancing in the fireplace.” (Nov.)