The Houseguest and Other Stories by Amparo Dávila

“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner”. Neil Gaiman

Short stories felt like a thing of the past. I always read novels, I had dabbled in short stories before but I never quite felt the urge to continue collecting them.

During this pandemic my attention span has faltered and novels have been read in parts and not as complete set pieces. I have dabbled, abandoned and finished books that have left me deflated. The idea of a short story suddenly felt appealing and maybe I could venture into another world in time for dinner or in my case it was breakfast.

My new routine was to get up early, make tea and sit down and read. This came into play a few days ago when I picked up The Houseguest: And Other Stories by Amparo Davila.  Life as I knew it had faded into the background and there I was in a very strange and peculiar world.

Amparo Davila was born in Mexico in 1928, as a child she would become fascinated with books and would go on to write her very own stories that touched on the fantastical and the uncanny including this collection The Houseguest: And Other Stories published by New Directions.  

Within The Houseguest, the stories often move between pure horror and psychological disorder. We are not sure if the supernatural is responsible for the misfortune of its characters or is it the case that the characters themselves are disturbed in some way? This kind of storytelling opens up the narrative, it allows us to lead the way and come to our own conclusions by picking up the clues as we go along.

This particular device is obvious in the first story Moses and Gaspar. These creatures we imagine are cats (although I couldn’t tell you why and many others believe they are at first) but as the story unfolds we begin to question them, we question what they are. Her ability to throw predictability out of the window is wonderfully macabre of her and for those who love to use their imagination will enjoy these tales immensely but may leave you feeling rather haunted.

The Houseguest and Other Stories by Amparo Dávila was translated from the Spanish by Audrey Harris and Matthew Gleeson

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