This volume contains two collections of short prose by Guadalupe Nettel: Natural Stories (2013) and Petals and Other Awkward Stories (2008). The stories are often written as a first-person confession, tight, without unnecessary drama, but with skillfully maintained tension and depth of images.
Siamese fighting fish, cockroaches, cats, a snake, and a strange fungus all serve here as mirrors that reflect the unconfessable aspects of human nature buried within us. The traits and fates of these animals illuminate such deeply natural, human experiences as the cruelty born of cohabitation, the desire to reproduce and the impulse not to, and the inexplicable connection that can bind, eerily, two beings together. Each Nettel tale creates, with tightly wound narrative tension, a space wherein her characters feel excruciatingly human, exploring how the wounds we incur in life manifest themselves within us, clandestinely, irrevocably, both unseen and overtly. In a precise writing style that is both subtle and spellbinding, Nettel renders the ordinary unsettling, and the grotesque exquisite. Natural Histories is the winner of the 3rd Ribera del Duero International Award for Short Narratives, an important Spanish literature prize.
As if seen by X-ray, the characters that populate Petals and Other Awkward Stories show us things that human beings normally prefer to keep hidden. Each one of these stories brings to light a strange and different model of insanity, an unconfessable excentricity that motivates someone’s existence: a Parisian photographer who is only interested in the blink of an eye, a Japanese office worker who discovers a rare affinity for cacti, a model who has hidden a strange twitch since childhood, a girl who tries, in her own way, to cheat death, a smeller of ladies’ lavatories ... With an ironic style full of mock naivety, the author introduces us into the lives of men and women who, behind their apparent normalcy, actually form part of that ample army of outsiders. This book promotes the idea that real beauty can be seen in those places that are difficult to look at.