The Taiga Syndrome

Cristina Rivera Garza, trans. from the Spanish by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana. Dorothy (SPD, dist.), $16 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-9973666-7-9
Rivera Garza’s extraordinary, incantatory novel (following The Iliac Crest) is short but stunning, following a semi-retired detective on the trail of her client’s second ex-wife, who abandoned him for a younger man. Intermittent communications from the couple place them last at the Taiga, an immense, faraway, and largely inhospitable forest province that borders the tundra. People disappear from the Taiga at such a frequency that the phenomenon has a name—the Taiga Syndrome. The detective arrives at the Taiga village from where her client’s ex-wife last sent a telegram, bringing along a translator for help. Though she privately suspects she’s there on a wild goose chase, the detective nonetheless faithfully records all that she comes across, including unsettling interviews with little boys and stories of a wolf cub who seemed to take an interest in the ex-wife and her lover. “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Red Riding Hood” are explicitly referenced throughout the book—the original, darker versions, of course. And there are some truly chilling aspects of the novel, including what the aforementioned little boy confesses he witnessed and a feral child the Taiga lumberjacks find in the forest. In the climax, the detective plunges deep into the Taiga in search of the ex-wife, and discovers where love must go before it can finally be considered over. As lyrical as a poem (“Look at this: your knees. They are used for kneeling upon reality, also for crawling, terrified. You use them to sit on a lotus flower and say goodbye to the immensity”) and as fantastic as a fairy tale, Rivera Garza’s gorgeous, propulsive novel will haunt readers long after it’s finished. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/20/2018
Release date: 10/01/2018
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