Last month I finished the excellent Man, Woman, and Hunger (El hombre, la hembra, y el hambre). Now I’m reading a very different book by her, Fables from an Extraterrestrial Grandmother. I’ve been enjoying Chaviano so much (and having so much trouble placing her in a genre) that I was pleased to encounter this profile of her from a few years ago.
The Cuban exile’s books are best described as wild experiments in genre-busting. It’s as if Ray Bradbury married Michael Ende and frolicked occasionally with Anáis Nin.
She conceived of a series called Habana Oculta, or the Occult Side of Havana, that would take a realistic approach to describing the magical elements of the city she had left behind [Havana].
The most recent book in the Habana Oculta series, El hombre, la hembra, y el hambre (Man, Woman, and Hunger, Planeta, 1998) describes how four characters, including a prostitute turned Santería priestess and an economist turned butcher, struggle with their double lives and sense of lost identity in modern-day Cuba.
I recommend the whole article, as well as perusing the author’s site.
The book I’m reading by her now has one of the most fascinating narrative structures I’ve ever encountered: four simultaneous narratives, Narrative A has a novelist writing Narratives B and C, but Narrative B also has an ancient grandmother telling stories about Narratives A and C, and a sage in Narrative D can observe Narratives A and C in a crystal ball. Mind exploding!
[Photo from Chaviano’s site]