Thursday, 7 November 2019

Humiliation by Paulina Flores

Humiliation by Paulina Flores
First published as Que verguenza in Spanish by Hueders in 2015. English language translation by Megan McDowell published by Oneworld Publications today, the 7th November 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads and featured in Cover Characteristics: Hands

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pride and disgrace.
Nostalgia and revenge.
Tenderness and seduction.

From the dusty backstreets of Santiago and the sun-baked alleyways of impoverished fishing villages to the dark stairwells of urban apartment blocks, Paulina Flores paints an intimate picture of a world in which the shadow of humiliation, of delusion, seduction and sabotage, is never far away. This is a Chile we seldom see in fiction. 

With an exceptional eye for human fragility, with unfailing insight and extraordinary tenderness, Humiliation is a mesmerising collection from a rising star of South American literature, translated from the Spanish by Man Booker International Prize finalist Megan McDowell.

I've done well for Latin American short stories over the past few weeks with Humiliation by Paulina Flores being the third such collection I have reviewed. (In mid-October I reviewed The Scent Of Buenos Aires by Hebe Uhart and my A Dream Come True by Juan Carlos Onetti review will be blogged on Saturday.) Humiliation includes nine new stories, all of which are linked by the senses of humiliation, guilt or shame, and Flores has created a folorn cast of characters with whom I could easily empathise. I particularly felt for the unemployed father who found himself compelled to take his two young daughters on a seemingly never-ending round of job interviews because they couldn't be left at home alone. Flores' insights into her characters and their motivations make these stories wonderful to read because, even as I cringed at a child trying desperately to impress an older friend, or blushed for a woman spying on her adulterous neighbours, I could always understand exactly what had led these people to take these decisions.

What made some tales particularly interesting for me was seeing how characters' own perceptions of their actions differed with the passing of time, or the way in which their own understanding of themselves was in total contrast to that of their close friends and family. I loved how Flores is able to conjure up such depth to her stories within the space of just twenty or thirty pages. If short stories are a genre you appreciate reading, I would highly recommend adding this collection to your library.

Etsy Find!
by Macarena Ortega in
Barcelona, Spain

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Books by Paulina Flores / Short stories / Books from Chile


  1. That is indeed, quite the talent: to be able to tell a compelling story in a span of 20 pages. I tell you, I've read 400-500 tomes that did nothing but go around in circles. *facepalm*

  2. Something about this cover really pleases my aesthetic mind. I am always looking for good short story collections where most of the stories are good rather than a mixed feeling coming out overall. This sounds like just the one, and it has characters who reevaluate themselves (which might even lead us to do the same.)

    1. The red British cover art is so much more striking than the pastel colours of the American edition