Margarita García Robayo’s “Fish Soup”

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Margarita García Robayo—a writer from Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, and now based in Buenos Aires, Argentina—has recently had two of her novels translated into English by Charlotte Coombe, and published by Charco Press: Fish Soup and Holiday Heart. [See previous post New Book: Margarita Garcia Robayo’s “Holiday Heart”.] She is also the author of Hay ciertas cosas que una no puede hacer descalza (Barcelona: Ediciones Destino, 2010), Lo que no aprendí (Buenos Aires: Planeta, 2013), Cosas peores (Bogota: Alfaguara, 2014), Tiempo muerto (Bogota: Alfaguara, 2017), and Primera persona (Lima: Pesopluma, 2017). Here is the description for Fish Soup:

Description: From internationally acclaimed author Margarita García Robayo comes Fish Soup, a unique collection comprising two novellas plus the book of short stories Worse Things [Cosas peores (winner of the prestigious Casa de las Américas Prize)].

Set on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Waiting for a Hurricane follows a girl obsessed with escaping both her life and her country. Emotionally detached from her family, and disillusioned with what the future holds if she remains, she takes ever more drastic steps in order to achieve her goal, seemingly oblivious to the damage she is causing both to herself and to those around her.

The tales of Worse Things provide snapshots of lives in turmoil, frayed relationships, dreams of escape, family taboos, and rejection both of and by society. Skillfully painting just enough detail, García Robayo explores these themes and invites the reader to unravel the true significance of the events depicted.

The previously unpublished Sexual Education examines the attempts of a student to tally the strict doctrine of abstinence taught at her school with the very different moral norms that prevail in her social circles. Semi-autobiographical, the frank depiction of these opposing pressures makes it impossible to remain a dispassionate observer.

Throughout the collection, García Robayo’s signature style blends cynicism and beauty with an undercurrent of dark humour. The prose is at once blunt and poetic as she delves into the lives of her characters, who simultaneously evoke sympathy and revulsion, challenging the reader’s loyalties as they immerse themselves in the unparalleled universe that is Fish Soup.

Margarita García Robayo (Cartagena, Colombia, 1980) is the author of three novels, a book of autobiographical essays and several collections of short stories, including Cosas peores (Worse Things), which won the Casa de las Américas Prize in 2014. Her work has appeared in several anthologies such as Región: cuento político latinoamericano (Political Latin American Short Stories, 2011) and Childless Parents (2014). In 2013, she was awarded a Literary Creation Grant from the Han Nefkens Foundation and the Pompeu Fabra University. Her books have been published in Latin America as well as in Spain, and have been translated into French, Portuguese, Italian, Hebrew and Chinese. Fish Soup is her first book to appear in English.

Charlotte Coombe is a British literary translator, working from French and Spanish. Her translation of Abnousse Shalmani’s Khomeini, Sade and Me (2016) won a PEN Translates award in 2015. She has translated novels by Anna Soler-Pont and Asha Miró, Marc de Gouvenain, as well as some non-fiction works, and short stories and poetry by Edgardo Nuñez Caballero, Rosa María Roffiel and Santiago Roncagliolo for the online publication Palabras Errantes. She is the translator of Eduardo Berti’s novel The Imagined Land (2018). This is her second title for Charco Press, after Ricardo Romero’s The President’s Room (2017).

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