Such Small Hands, Andrés Barba
A funny, freaky and perfect small book. I picked this up in the library because as an uncanny novel of Spanish origin it looked right up my street. And indeed it was! The first lines are perfect. In fact, as it should be with such small books, every line is perfect. Here’s the beginning:
“Her father died instantly, her mother in the hospital.”
Marina goes to live in an orphanage where the other girls, already in their friendships and routines, aren’t friendly towards her. They begin to bully her, until she shows them a wonderful game all the girls play throughout the nights, in which all of them can take their turns at being dolls.
While studying Latin American stuff at university I read many odd little stories. Some of my favourites are Aura by Carlos Fuentes, and the one about the rabbits in Borges’ Ficciones, which I should seek out again as my memory isn’t returning to me what it’s about right now. It turns out that Barba is a contemporary writer, born in Madrid in 1975, which I wasn’t expecting. Even the way the book is bound makes it seem ancient, as well as the crude doll effigy on the front. I was as fooled as Marina and her terrifying little friends with their small hands.
Deeper dive on it here in the LA Review of Books.