I found the entire collection hauntingly heartbreaking and beautiful. The stories have so much depth and the plot twists in many (if not all) of them presents so wonderfully what short stories are about. I don’t know the author, but I found such a deep resonance to her work with that of Han Kang’s (from South Korea) work.
While the introduction in paragraph 3 defines lazarettos in its manifestation to the body/ individual, there were times when it gave the sense that it’s also something physical – outside the being. For example, in the last paragraph of the introduction it says: “…lazarettos always existed outside the lazarettos.” And in some stories it refers to the lazaretto has a place. If a lazaretto is also a place, outside of the way it manifests in a person, you might want to footnote this/ provide an explanation on a page in the introduction for an English reader. Clarity like this would help with any confusion.
As I’ve mentioned above, I found a deep resonance with Han Kang’s work. “Healthy” reminded me “The Vegetarian” by Han Kang. This novel won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction in 2016. I have some questions on the smaller detail of this story and whether this was intentional. For example, in the emails, Alberto’s email address is shown, while Valentina’s is not. Also, in all the emails Valentina signs off her name as “Val.” or “me.” But, in the final email she signs her full name “Valentina.” Was this intentional to evoke an emotion of finality? Or am I reading too much into it?
“By the backdoor” had me screaming FUCK! really loud at the end, while I thought that “Affections” had the perfect plot twist at the end of the story.
I struggled a little with “Violinists on their desks”, especially with its link to the/ a lazaretto. This was at a time when I struggled with the concept of the lazaretto. “Predators” read like a Tarantino style script, but make it a short story. I loved this dark and weird stories. I find these types of stories particularly difficult to master, and even more so when it’s a short story. However, this story and the translation was perfect. It’s originality is a masterpiece.
There were many times (especially in the last two stories), where semi-colons were used over full stops. While the use of the semi-colons in all of these times were correct, I thought that the power of short sentences can get lost by this conjunction. I can point these out to you when we talk.
“From Butterfly to Caterpillar” reminded me of Almodovar’s “The Skin I live In”. The struggle for conforming to society’s standards of beauty is something everyone grapples with. It’s heartbreaking and this theme is carried through with this story. “Going up and down” made me cry. That story is layered with the pressures of appearance, especially for those who somehow made it out of “ghetto” or working class societies. I use pressures (plural) on purpose, because it’s not just the pressure from friends/ colleagues, but also from the self. Therein lies the lazaretto so raw and painful.
By the time I finished the epilogue, I thought that it was one novel, as opposed to a collection of short stories. I think that the author brings all of these different stories with different themes so beautifully together at the end.