cover image The Heart and Other Viscera

The Heart and Other Viscera

Félix J. Palma, trans. from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenzo García. Atria, $17 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6404-0

In Palma’s solid collection, following his The Map of Time trilogy, the surreal collides with the deeply mundane in transformative ways. In these stories, the protagonist—almost always a man down on his luck or depressed in some way—encounters something extraordinary. This might be a magical train set, where an avatar painted in one’s likeness placed inside it can traverse the world (“Roses against the Wind”); a new apartment that’s perfect in every way, except for the man behind the curtain in the den (“The Man behind the Curtain”); or, in the title story, a man who gives pieces of his body to his lover on birthdays and anniversaries. In the most ambitious story, “The Seven (or So) Lives of Sebastian Mingorance,” Palma pulls off the impressive juggling act of considering one man and all the different directions a day in his life could have gone, with all seven alternative Sebastian Mingorances occupying the same room at one point. The scope of Palma’s imagination is undeniable, even if his female characters suffer for it—all of them are objectified or otherwise treated as accessories to the plot, and most meet rather gruesome fates. Palma proves he is an assured, creative writer with a knack for the unsettling.[em] (Sept.) [/em]