Thursday, December 06, 2018


Gabino Iglesias wrote "Detection, Memory, and the Uncanny of Cristina Rivera Garza´s The Taiga Syndrome," for Vol.1 Brooklyn
There are books that get so close to being sublime that plot becomes almost irrelevant. Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Taiga Sydrome has a plot, but it’s exploration of memory, the way it uses language to communicate the ethereal, and the dreamy atmosphere punctuated by scenes of longing, investigation of a mystery, and brutality eventually overpower everything else and push the narrative into a realm where plot isn’t always the most crucial element.
The Taiga Syndrome is a short novel that follows an unnamed female ex-detective who heads to the Taiga in search of a couple who escaped there. She goes there because a betrayed husband is convinced his second ex-wife wants him to track her down for some reason. The ex-detective gets a translator and heads into the cold, unforgiving forest to find start her mission. Instead of snow and trees, what she finds in her quest are a plethora of strange things, situations, stories, and people. Furthermore, there is a lot of information that is lost, (re)shaped, and transformed in translation, so she is never entirely sure of some things. To make matters worse, her mission is haunted by classic stories like Little Red riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. As the ex-detective moves forward with her quest with a keen eye and taking notes, there is something in every bizarre experience that turns the lessons she’s receiving into psychological and emotional experiences that show her a new truth: sometimes leaving everything behind and jumping into an uncertain future in a faraway place is, more than the best choice, the only option.
The writing in The Taiga Syndrome is stunning. Rivera Garza walks a fine line between the dreamy language of fairytales, the bluntness and economy of language of crime fiction, and something else, something ineffable that is entirely hers. This mix of styles, which work incredibly well together, and the book’s short chapters keep the narrative moving forward at all times. Also, there are many things hiding in the story. For example, there is an exploration of memory, of the way we see things after things have been seen, that is a treat for careful readers. Then there is the deconstruction of crime fiction wrapped in a short discourse about surviving an investigation:
That, with time, I had become accustomed to the hollow moments of an investigation is true. There are hours, days even, sometimes months or years when nothing happens: Those are the gaps in an investigation. In other words, those moments are life. The detective who wins a case, who solves it, is usually the one who weathers those lapses. Resources are needed, of course. But above all, you need patience, that rare gift; or you need something else to think about—a certain capacity for distraction. You need a place inside the self, your own language where you can hide. You need a refuge, yes. Any refuge.
The deceptively simple plot here, as mentioned above, takes a backseat to the driving forces that make The Taiga Syndrome a unique reading experience. More than entertainment and walking readers to the resolution of a case, Rivera Garza is concerned with showing how memory acts inside us, how bluntness, mystery, and nature can inhabit the same space as eerie visions, uncertainty, miscommunication, and enchanted language. Lastly, this is a narrative that pushes against the truths at the core of recollection: almost nothing is exactly what is remembered. This revelation comes in many forms, and other people is just one of them (filtered, again, through translation):
How the woman had vomited. On the bed, beside the man’s body. How, from that vomit, from that jumble of bones and saliva and bile, from that truly nauseating smell, from that unbearable substance, those things had appeared. Those things the boy had drawn later, much later, at the request of the translator. On a sunny morning. A spectacular morning.
This novella accomplishes a lot in 128 pages. It’s enigmatic and somewhat creepy, but also as lyrical as a poem and full of a kind of slight surrealism that brings to mind classic fairytales. That said, perhaps the books biggest accomplishment is that is teases readers even beyond the last page. This is a satisfying read, but also one that leaves readers wanting more…and wondering if they are right about the conclusions, wondering if their ideas are correct in a world where language is a shifting animal and exile is at once punishment and paradise. If you like your literature unnerving and sprinkled with the strangest kind of magic, don’t miss this one.

See full article here


Saturday, December 01, 2018

THE TAIGA SYNDROME--Mystery Scene Magazine

Robert Allen Papinchak wrote about The Taiga Syndrome for Mystery Scene Magazine:

If Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy) and Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber) had a fictional child with the poetic vision of Anne Sexton (Transformations) it would be Cristina Rivera Garza’s remarkable, metaphysical detective novel, The Taiga Syndrome.
Aside from Earth’s oceans, the Taiga, a subarctic snow forest of birch, firs, and cedars, is the largest biome community on the planet. What if Hansel and Gretel met the Big Bad Wolf in those deep, dark woods?
That’s the existential premise of Garza’s fairy-tale-inspired search that blurs the boundaries of reality and fantasy, and it is where the unnamed detective narrator finds herself when she takes on the riddle of “the case of the mad couple of the Taiga.” In the story told over 22 brief (some as short as two pages), evocative chapters, the detective is hired by a man to find his second wife, who has run off with another man.
Her search begins when the detective, accompanied by a translator guide, wanders into the couple’s village, where she discovers a feral boy child outside their shack. Or is he a wolf? What follows are references to François Truffaut’s 1970 film L’Enfant Sauvage (a “peculiar romance ...established between the feral child...and the spectator”), as well as nods to “Little Red Riding Hood” and the aforementioned “Hansel and Gretel.”
The novel takes its title from an alleged disease that strikes the inhabitants of the Taiga, causing one to “suffer terrible anxiety attacks and make suicidal attempts to escape.” As the detective and the translator follow the crumbs of their investigation deeper into the Taiga, they find themselves in an alternate, surreal cosmos. Before the narrator’s trek into the tundra is over, readers will wonder if she, too, won’t succumb to The Taiga Syndrome’s fevered dream.
The Taiga Syndrome is a stunning philosophical meditation that transcends the standard detective story. As Rivera Garza writes, this is a “story about being in love,” admittedly a very strange love, as well as falling out of it. It is a postmodern fable as if written by Mary Shelley and The Brothers Grimm. It is an extraordinary novel that will get under your skin and make it crawl.
Read full article here.