cover image With My Dog-Eyes

With My Dog-Eyes

Hilda Hilst, trans. from the Portuguese by Adam Morris. Melville (Random, dist.), $12.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-61219-345-8

This first English-language edition of Hilda Hilst's (The Obscene Madame D) tart 1986 novella aims to introduce the cult Brazilian writer to a wider audience. Translator Adam Morris's fine introduction provides the necessary context to appreciate Hilst, an author, poet, and playwright noted for having her love of dogs. Here she addresses "the nexus she believed existed between genius and madness, poetry and mathematics." The thin narrative concerns Amos Keres, a professor asked to take a leave of absence in part for pausing 15 minutes between sentences in class. Written in a stream of consciousness style where word associations create rhythms and suggest meanings, Hilst's lyrical little book ebbs and flows with vivid imagery, from "a surface of ice anchored to laughter" to a certain smile described by the "little crease on the side of a face." The experimental narrative is interrupted throughout with diverting short stories, haikus, and poetic digressions. A section on polyhedrons is clever, as is a couplet about Keres being a "doctor of numbers but starved of letters." There is even an amusing debate about a man about to be hanged wanting to catch some zzz's. Readers will enjoy this taste of Hilst's talent, but many will find themselves still hungry. (Apr.)