The suffocating stories of María Bastarós in “This was not what we came for”

María Bastarós and her book “This was not what we came for”.

Maria Bastarosthe writer born in Zaragoza, published in 2017, by the hand of the editorial candayadirected by Olga Martinez Y Paco Roblesthe fifth book, the second of short stories, of her literary career, a real surprise on the market, as it allowed readers to find an author whose stories were so powerful that only an even stronger book could get them out of their stupor.

That book had, and still has, the title “This was not what we came for”, and don’t tell me that it doesn’t call input because, then, I don’t see what it can do. These pages talk about the terror that lies in normality. His characters struggle to integrate into a universe that legitimizes their existence: that of romantic love, motherhood, urbanizations, salaried work, the traditional family. Everything that is normal is coveted and will become hostile terrain where life is increasingly difficult to sustain.

After having publishedHistory of Spain told to girls”a title that earned him an interesting editorial success from the label Fulgencio Pimentelin 2018, and having approached the storytelling in “I no longer remember what I wanted to be when I grew up.”in 2019, the Spanish author manages to surprise once again, but in more radical ways, with these tales of suffocating atmospheres: the Monegros desert, the erosion of the Bardenas, abandoned roads, industrial estates… All spaces that , as the editorial points out, mark a path towards the margins or towards delirium, and where the characters and their desires almost always meet the reverse of what they are looking for.

book cover "This was not what we came for", by Maria Bastarós. (Courtesy: Editorial Candaya).
Cover of the book “This was not what we came for”, by María Bastarós. (Courtesy: Editorial Candaya).

In these tales, macabre, unpredictable and also stained with tenderness, he says Andrea Nunez-Torron, the author spreads some blood capillaries that touch each other. We find ourselves going back and checking the coordinates, weighing the future or the misfortune of its protagonists, saved by rituals, inhabited by a desire that grows inside them or headed for disaster.

Inside these pages, normality is full of spikes, it gets stuck in the throat when trying to pass it, we only have retching from it that stirs everything up. Here, the supernatural, the bizarre, the violent, that which cannot be spoken aloud, the harmful secrets of parents, redirect the reader’s attention towards an attraction to the unknown, the absurd, the merely wild.

If choosing the stories that provide the highest points during the reading of the book is a question, probably it is necessary to mention girls don’t, Instructions to save a cricket, Hungry for what Y Those who keep the fire. But that depends on the reader.

Bastarós has the unusual ability to play with the bad feelings of his characters, their revulsion and discomfort, and provoke the reader’s curiosity with them, naturalizing them, supported by a fine prose and careful with details, skirting the limits of terror and fancy. The best stories in this book are the ones that achieve this and make it clear that normalcy is never free.

“An accurate shot to the marrow of normality,” he says Rosario Villajos. “A perverse, disturbing and lucid look capable of making you see the heroine who is hiding in a beautiful field of poppies”. That’s it “This was not what we came for”a true display of talent to surprise from below and get away with it.

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The suffocating stories of María Bastarós in “This was not what we came for”