Fever Dream

“Strange can be quite normal. Strange can just be the phrase ‘That is not important’ as an answer for everything. But if your son never answered you that way before, then the fourth time you ask him why he’s not eating, or if he’s cold, or you send him to bed, and he answers, almost biting off the words as if he were still learning to talk, ‘That is not important’, I swear to you Amanda, your legs start to tremble.”
― Samanta Schweblin, Fever Dream

Mural (detail), Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

So, the next novel in line on my reading plan was Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin. A very short novel, with few characters (though a unique take on point of view) I was able to read it in a day and a half.

It’s a horror story, with elements of the supernatural and environmental disaster in the forefront. It’s told as a conversation between a young boy (who is half someone else) and a dying woman – his summer-renting neighbor. The two of them, the woman’s young daughter, plus many other people, and most of the animals, in the area have been exposed to a toxin of unknown nature. The wealthy men of the neighborhood seem to be doing something that releases the toxin, but nobody knows for sure.

It’s a horrible illness – killing most in a few days and leaving the survivors disfigured and changed… somehow. A story told in an effective and interesting way about a mother’s worst nightmare.

But, I’m sorry, in the end the novel didn’t do much for me. I did read an English translation – and I could almost feel the subtlety of the original Spanish washed away off the edges of the paper. Spanish has words that English lacks, words for emotions and relationships that I may have been missing. The book held plenty of horror, dread, and mystery… is that enough? Does it need a payoff? A point? Even if it is short and only takes up a few precious hours of your life?

Probably not. Still, I wanted at least a bit more.

I see than Netflix has made a film out of this movie. I’m tempted… but I can’t see how this harrowing, yet thin, story would look in pixels and sound. I’ll probably watch it eventually, just not now.

OK, looking at the order I chose for my reading plan (chosen by the roll of the dice) – Is another Zola novel – The Debacle (the next-to-last Rougon Macquart novel)… but I’m not in the mood for another long novel… just yet. So it’s Berg, by Ann Quin next. Then on to Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World by Donald Antrim. A couple more shorter novels.

That’s the ticket.

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