cover image The Things We Don’t Do

The Things We Don’t Do

Andrés Neuman, trans. from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia. Open Letter (, $13.95 (190p) ISBN 978-1-940953-18-2

Probing the eternal mysteries of identity, self-knowledge, and love, the characters of Neuman’s dreamy, metaphysical short stories are just as likely to lose themselves completely in a therapy session as to give birth to themselves, or to discover that the most perfect relationship can be, paradoxically, too perfect to last. In “Mr. President’s Hotel,” the president of an unspecified nation discovers increasingly threatening messages addressed to him in hotel visitors’ books; the narrator of “My False Name,” traces “the strange symmetries of history” to find that his ancestors have repeatedly avoided conscription with misunderstandings over the family name. The border between life and death is imaginatively queried in “Bathtub,” as a man assiduously prepares to drown himself, and in “A Cigarette,” gangsters Vázquez and Artigas turn on their ex-crony Rojo, who settles for one last smoke before dying. Disaster is averted in the ruefully hilarious “Outside No Birds Were Singing,” when a therapist, taking a call from a suicidal patient, aggravates him into quitting therapy—but not life. Ontological questioning and semiotic confusion merge in the collection’s brief, brilliant final sections, the “Dodecalogues from a Storyteller,” in which Neuman reveals his rule: “To narrate is to seduce: never completely satisfy the reader’s curiosity.” (Sept.)