An author who goes straight to the supernatural: the debut of Agustina Zabaljáuregui | SEEN AND READ

Impure genealogies inhabit the stories of the surprising first book by Agustina Zabaljáuregui (Buenos Aires, 1984), the time of the rats. Humans transformed into zombie dogs, a creature born from the union between a woman and a wild river, the orphan who lives with a colony of rats and the granddaughter who becomes her grandmother are some of the figures in the cast of the thirteen stories of this narrator. who in 2018 won second prize in the “Manuel Mujica Lainez” literature contest with “Pies de robot”, included in the book and which narrates the friendship between a parricidal butcher and Victoria, who wants to learn to skate. “But despite her menacing appearance, she had a noble look, like a big dog’s,” reflects Vicky. The morality of characters and narrators of the time of the rats it is and is not that of this world, and in comparisons with humans, animals always have an advantage.

“I am fascinated by animals and nature: its rules, its beauty, its cruelty –says the author–. They are a direct door to the supernatural because they provoke that sensation of being before a miracle”. Until the fissure becomes an abyss, the couples in some stories function as a single entity. “We no longer knew where he ended and where I began. We forgot if he was the obsessive one and I was the messy one or the other way around. We were mutating for the other”, says the narrator of “Como shovels”.

Before devoting himself to narrative and coordinating literary workshops at El Cuaderno Azul, Zabaljáuregui worked as a screenwriter. “I didn’t know I could write narrative,” he says. I was discovering it along the way, as the stories appeared. I loved it right away, especially because of the freedom there is. In the script everything is money, one works very limited. Looking at the finished book, it seems to me that there was an unconscious drive for revenge because there is everything that they tell you not to do in the cinema: no animals, no children, no fire. Most of the short stories would be HBO blockbusters if they were filmed. Since I always wrote scripts on demand, I found in the narrative an aspect of my identity, the themes and the worlds that obsess me.

For atmosphere and plot, stories like “A bottle of whiskey and a can of Nesquik” (set in a disturbing near-non-future), “A storm” and “Son of the river” deserve to be included in any anthology of fantastic stories. “Some came from a sentence and the story was appearing as I pulled the thread –reveals Zabaljáuregui–. Others arose from a place or a character. I worked with what was there, asking questions to that until the rest of the story was drawn or at least the arrow that marked the direction. The sinister and the fantastic appearing without looking for it. I became friends with fear and darkness. Putting him in the stories allowed me to get him out of my life. For years I had a feeling of constant fear, a shadow that accompanied me and that now lives in what I write.”

Some stories do “justice” with victimizers of all kinds in unbridled reprisals, such as the one that gives the book its title, starring Luna, a girl who would rather live with the rats in the subway tunnels than with her uncle. “They were emerging at the moment when I came across feminism and the themes that I proposed to rethink. Abortion, violence against women, maternity in code body horror they slipped into the stories. It wasn’t a conscious thing until the time of the rewrite. It became a decision to leave those themes, that they were contained by the story and that they were part of the characters”, adds the author, who grew up reading North American writers.

“When I first met Mariana Enriquez, Selva Almada, Samanta Schweblin, I couldn’t believe it. After Alejandra Kamiya, Alejandra Zina, Camila Sosa Villada, Dolores Reyes, a firmament of rock stars different and all interesting. It was a matter of being seen, given space or kicked out. Of course I am also interested in the work of authors, especially those who write genre, such as Luciano Lamberti, Leo Oyola or Leandro Ávalos Blacha. But it fascinates me that the leaders of the literary scene today are women. I grew up listening to Bikini Kill with its scream riot grrrl ‘Girls to the front’ and in Argentine literature I feel that for the first time the girls are in front”.

the time of the rats

Agustina Zabaljauregui


An author who goes straight to the supernatural: the debut of Agustina Zabaljáuregui | SEEN AND READ