The Scent of Buenos Aires
Stories by Hebe Uhart
by HEBE UHART
Pub Date 15 Oct 2019
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The Scent of Buenos Aires offers the first book-length English translation of Uhart's work, drawing together her best vignettes of quotidian life: moments at the zoo, the hair salon, or a cacophonous homeowners association meeting. She writes in unconventional, understated syntax, constructing a delightfully specific perspective on life in South America. These stories are marked by sharp humor and wit: discreet and subtle, yet filled with eccentric and insightful characters. Uhart's narrators pose endearing questions about their lives and environments - one asks "Bees - do you know how industrious they are?" while another inquires, "Are we perhaps going to hell in a hand basket?"
"Hebe approached her subjects from an astonished and oblique angle that, at first, might appear naive. Not so. Her short stories feature protagonists rarely seen in Argentine literature [...] Always rescuing the voices that no one pays attention to, yet not at all in a pompous way, for, if there was one thing that Hebe Uhart never wanted to do, it was to fall into the common position of giving voice to the voiceless and other slogans that she would consider idiotic." — from "Perfect Pitch" by Mariana Enriquez, author of Things We Lost in the Fire, in Página/12 "I do not like authors who are too satisfied. The best tradition of Argentinean literature was built in these vacillations: the uncertain narrator of Borges or of Hebe Uhart, that idea that meaning is always being constructed, and that opposes other traditions in which the narrator is sure of the order of things." - Ricardo Piglia "Hebe Uhart is the best contemporary Argentinean storyteller." - Rodolfo Enrique Fogwill "[In Uhart's writing] from simplicity one penetrates depths and labyrinths where you can only advance if you participate in the magic of that new world...It neither clarifies nor completes a known reality. It reveals, or rather, it is a unique, distinct reality." - Haroldo Conti "Hebe is the best and the strangest. After decades of writing and publishing narrations, Hebe became an author that dominated a central genre for the Argentine tradition: the short story. However, this has the geographic particularity of being transnational: when we think about stories in Argentina we think about literature created in the Río de la Plata, between Argentina and Uruguay. And that was one of the strongest nuclei in Hebe's literary identity, by which it was not a national but an inherently Río de la Plata literature." - Inés Acevedo "Hebe's texts (her fiction as well as her chronicles) played with the world in a manner that didn't fully coincide with Victor Shklovski's definition of defamiliarization, that disposition of finding the strange and the unfamiliar within the quotidian. This is perhaps because the quotidian perception of Hebe Uhart in the world was, in itself, lacking automatization from the beginning, being always full of amazement, of a cultivated sense of bewilderment. That register was then translated to her texts through a writing that was ingeniously natural, with a simplicity that was only simulated." - Martin Kohan "The world of Hebe Uhart, which so intensely appears in her stories, is abundant, collective and absolutely personal ... She as given Argentine Literature countless unforgettable, exciting characters that establish, when talking or acting, when having certain feelings over others, a way of existing, of resisting, of withstanding." - Elvio E. Gandolfo