cover image Lilus Kikus and Other Stories

Lilus Kikus and Other Stories

Elena Poniatowska, , trans. from the Spanish by Elizabeth Coonrod Martinez, illus. by Leonora Carri. Univ. of New Mexico Press, $15.95 (127pp) ISBN 978-0-8263-3582-1

Composed of an illustrated novella, four stories and a critical essay, this collection introduces English-speaking readers to experimental Mexican writer Poniatowska, whose body of work has earned high honors in Central and South America. Poniatowska writes protagonists who ask questions and break rules—not, they would have one think, out of a desire to subvert, but as the natural result of their wide-eyed innocence. The title work, published in 1954, is a child's eye view of a grown-up world. Slim chapters and simple sentences are the foil for critiques ("Lilus's father never walks barefoot. He has too many appointments") and magic (God takes an elevator down Lilus's throat to visit her soul). Carrington's drawings heighten the distorted beauty of young Lilus Kikus's perspective. The stories that follow deal in solitude: a philosopher's daughter's life passes in the shadow of his intellectual circle; two lovers are turned out of the bedroom into a world that keeps them separate; a breathless monologue is delivered to a lover falling asleep; a nurse is accused of keeping five husbands. With each piece, a new facet of Poniatowska's rich stylistic vocabulary is revealed. (Nov.)