Tuesday SF: “the dangers of smoking in bed”, when death and humor invite each other as friends

Tuesday Science Fiction case

Find every Tuesday a chronicle, an interview or a portrait linked to a science fiction text that is making the news. Today, a collection of horrific short stories from Argentina’s Mariana Enriquez.

A skull with a cigarette in its teeth and a deceptively serious title, the dangers of smoking in bed. Death and humor invite each other as friends in this collection by Mariana Enriquez, an Argentinian author born in 1973. Her novel Our part of the night caused a sensation when it was published in France in the fall of 2021. In 2017, Editions du Sous-Sol translated a first collection, What we lost in the fire. This one plays in the same vein, realism and horror.

The first short story with the funereal title, “The Exhumation of Angelita”, sets the exact tone of the collection: it balances between superstitions, ghosts and curses. While playing, a little girl digs up bones in the backyard of the house, they are not those of an animal despite her father’s claims, but of a great-aunt who died a few months after her birth. This will come back to haunt her one stormy night, ten years later. “She was pointing outside, towards the window and the street, and that’s why I realized it was daytime. It’s weird to see a dead person in broad daylight. I asked her what she wanted, but in response she kept pointing her finger like in a horror movie.

In “Rambla triste” also wander, in Barcelona, ​​the ghosts of slightly vengeful children, who annoy and drive the living mad with guilt. In “Les Petits Revenants”, the longest story in the collection, Mechi works in Buenos Aires at the Lost and Missing Children’s Archive Classification Service. His friend Pedro is a journalist who investigates the disappearances of teenagers. When the disappeared begin to return… Another apparition awaits a sacrificial victim in the “Mirador” hotel in Ostend.

A rooster crowing in the middle of the night

But the ghosts are not the only springs of these texts which surprise by their naturalness, the fantastic and the horror seeming only a form of deployment of reality. Taking up the classic codes of the genre, Mariana Enriquez diverts the expected. The cruelty and selfishness of the protagonists are far more disturbing than the supernatural. Thus, the ferocious jealousy of a group of girls for Sylvia who has succeeded in seducing Diego, pushes them to let the couple be devoured by dogs from another age in “the Virgin of the Tufières”. If Josefina is terribly anxious about going out, it’s because her mother and grandmother thought only of themselves, transferring a curse (“the Well”) to her.

The superstitious heritage in these stories often comes from the grandmother: a rooster crowing in the middle of the night is a sign that someone is going to die; or you can’t fight the devil. But the stories of Mariana Enriquez appear radically modern, marked by obsessions, social malaise and eroticism. A neighborhood that has mistreated a beggar finds itself struck by bad luck, except the family who have been magnanimous (“the Caddie”). A young girl enjoys listening to sick hearts and discovers herself a member of an entire international community of fetishists… There is rarely an elucidation. The endings are high points that leave the reader with a strong image and a suspense of reality.

The dangers of smoking in bed by Mariana Enriquez, translated from Spanish (Argentina) by Anne Plantagenet, Editions du Sous-Sol, 240 pp. (21€).

Tuesday SF: “the dangers of smoking in bed”, when death and humor invite each other as friends