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“Humiliation is a brilliant book that captures the volatility of misunderstandings, the moment when failures matter less than the need to share them.” —Alejandro Zambra, author of Multiple Choice
The nine mesmerizing stories in Humiliation, translated from the Spanish by Man Booker International Prize finalist Megan McDowell, present us with a Chile we seldom see in fiction: port cities marked by poverty and brimming with plans of rebellion; apartment buildings populated by dominant mothers and voyeuristic neighbors; library steps that lead students to literature, but also into encounters with other arts—those of seduction, self-delusion, sabotage.
In these pages, a father walks through the scorching heat of Santiago’s streets with his two daughters in tow. Jobless and ashamed, he takes them into a stranger’s house, a place that will become the site of the greatest humiliation of his life. In an impoverished fishing town, four teenage boys try to allay their boredom during an endless summer by translating lyrics from the Smiths into Spanish using a stolen dictionary. Their dreams of fame and glory twist into a plan to steal musical instruments from a church, an obsession that prevents one of them from anticipating a devastating ending. Meanwhile a young woman goes home with a charismatic man after finding his daughter wandering lost in a public place. She soon discovers, like so many characters in this book, that fortuitous encounters can be deceptions in disguise.
Themes of pride, shame, and disgrace—small and large, personal and public—tie the stories in this collection together. Humiliation becomes revelation as we watch Paulina Flores’s characters move from an age of innocence into a world of conflicting sensations.