cover image Rabbit Island

Rabbit Island

Elvira Navarro, trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney. Two Lines, $19.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-949641-09-7

The stories in Spanish writer Navarro’s arresting collection (after A Working Woman) are set in and around present-day Madrid, but the characters often find themselves in a more surreal terrain. In the title story, a man releases 20 rabbits on an uninhabited island in hopes they will eat the eggs of the birds whose excrement, noise, and dirty feathers are preventing him from enjoying the few nights a week he camps there, a plan which devolves into a grotesque, cannibalistic situation. In “Strychnine,” a paw grows in the young protagonist’s ear. It starts out as a red swelling, but by the next day the appendage hangs “below her breast” and has “sprouted toes with small mouths.” In “Myotragus,” Navarro imagines an encounter between a predatory nobleman and a cold-blooded (now extinct) goat that lived on the island of Majorca. While some stories feel overly impressionistic, with too little plot, the most daring in the collection are unsettling and memorable. Navarro showcases her ability to lead her characters from relative normalcy into nightmare terrain in starkly elegant prose and with a winking sense of humor. (Feb.)