Title: Humiliation (original title: Qué vergüenza)

Writer: Paulina Flores (translated by Megan McDowell)

Publishing House: Oneworld Publications

Date of Publication: November 7th 2019 (first published 2015)

Rating: 4 stars

‘’I had the hope I would be able to forget. I longed for the freedom of a heroine, a life of my own, a happy one. Back then I ridiculously faced down the world, sure I could defeat it and emerge unscathed.’’

It is always a pleasure and an adventure to start a new short story collection. The genre is currently racing through a golden age, readership has become more demanding (at least the ones who don’t spend hours reading trash…) and more open to material that challenges our perceptions. We have become more accustomed to techniques that stress literary boundaries and the mystery of the Short Story is fascinating by definition.

However, sometimes a short story collection is simple, straightforward, tranquil but equally poignant. The stories in Paulina Flores’s collection are ripe with sadness and futile endeavours, the hope for change, the shadows of disappointment. There are no hidden meanings or cryptic messages but the greatest mystery of all; human relationships and their implications.

These are my favourite moments out of the 9 stories included in this collection:

Humiliation: A father tries to find a job, aided by his eldest daughter. However, nothing goes as planned. A very sad story of a family on the verge of breaking apart.

Teresa: An enigmatic woman meets a man and a strange little girl in a library. This story is the perfect combination of sinister and sensual.

‘’I burned all my bridges, he said, and I was left floating in the water, adrift.’’

Forgetting Freddy: A woman starts writing in her diary to cope with a painful separation. Pills, hot baths, everything to overcome the pain. A sad, haunting story of a woman who can’t leave the past behind and the dangers women have to fight against on a daily basis.

Aunt Nana: A young woman is trying to recover from the loss of the aunt who replaced an indifferent mother.

‘’We have forged great flaming wings.’’

                         Inscription on the Monument To The Conquerors of Space, Moscow.

Laika: A tender story of a girl’s fascination for the unexplained and unattainable. For the mystery of the universe, UFOs, legends, and Laika, the most legendary of canines.

Last Vacation: A boy’s summer spent in the company of his bohemian aunt. A story about the love of reading, about growing up without a father and the tortured past of Chile.

Up to this point, the collection was a solid, clear 5-star material. Unfortunately, Lucky Me, the novella of the collection, wasn’t my cup of tea at all. Reading about Sailor Moon (which I loathed even as a child), stickers and various sexual troubles which I find utterly distasteful and disgusting is a literary nightmare for me. Fortunately, the rest of the collection was pure quality. 

This is an excellent collection about womanhood, desire. About the need to belong, to overcome preconceived expectations and potential failures, told through relatable characters within the context and rich culture of Chile.

‘’Nights, I wake up and walk barefoot through the apartment I rent. Tonight, I go into the kitchen and look out the window to the south. Venus is shining above a building’s antenna.’’

Many thanks to Oneworld Publications and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.