Tales of the paranormal and the bizarre set in the city of Havana, by Cuban author Esther Díaz Llanillo, melding fantasy with black humor and metaphysical undertones. Bilingual edition.
The bilingual collection of short stories ABOUT SPIRITS & OTHER MYSTERIES / sobre espíritus y otros misterios, by Cuban writer Esther Díaz Llanillo, will delight readers interested in a darkly humorous, supernatural and macabre look at life in Havana.Díaz Llanillo is known for her blending of paranormal fantasy with black humor and metaphysical undertones; her short fiction has been described as bizarre, uncanny, absurd, macabre, intellectual and ironic. Her work explores universal questions of right and wrong, good and evil, real and unreal. Jeremy Glazier suggests Díaz Llanillo’s tales are reminiscent of “Poe… or, better yet, Edith Wharton’s ghost stories and the twisted world of Shirley Jackson.” Jorge Febles likens her style to Latin American greats such as Silvina Ocampo, Virgilio Piñera, Cortázar and Rosario Ferré. Her writing could also could be compared to the darkly humorous horror of Haruki Murakami.The tales in this collection are set in the city of Havana, although to enter her fiction is to cross a frontier into strange spaces and imaginary worlds. Díaz Llanillo takes everyday scenes of Cuban life, rotates them on the axis of her imagination, then reveals the hallucinations, ghosts, dreams, and supernatural forces that lie beneath the surface. Carnivorous plants, menacingly self-replicating red beans, impossible murders and discerning ghosts looking for real estate are just a few of the images that prompt uncomfortable shivers and guilty half-laughs for the readers.
ABOUT SPIRITS & OTHER MYSTERIES contains a foreword from the author’s daughter, Dr. Raquel Pérez Díaz; a translator’s note by Manuel Martínez; and an analytical essay by the main English-language editors, Sara E. Cooper y Maria di Francesco, translated from Spanish by the principal Spanish-language editor, Daniel Díaz Mantilla.
“These stories show a profound understanding of how we are both
imprisoned and freed by the myriad and complex layers of our own
imaginations. Combining horror and humor, reality and fantasy,
sympathy and rigorous observation, Llanillo creates characters that are
deeply changed by their experiences. As are we, from reading them.” —Nancy Kress, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning
author of the Beggars in Spain series
“Here is the true voice and sublime style of Esther Díaz Llanillo, tales
of fantasy with hints of life lessons. Thanks to the excellent translation,
readers of English will now know her work, replete as it is with erudition,
masterful language, inherent Cubanidad, and a few ghosts…”
—Mirta Yáñez, Premio Nacional de la Literatura Cubana
“Esther Díaz Llanillo’s stories transport us to a world of contained
spaces where the universal and the fantastic merge in a subtle lyricism.
Somewhere between philosophical treatise and supernatural fiction,
these tales convey the ambiguities of the human condition with bluntness
and wit. Martinez’s crisp translation does justice to the unique style of
one of Cuba’s most original writers.”
—Raúl Rosales Herrera, Drew University
“ABOUT SPIRITS AND OTHER MYSTERIES/ sobre espíritus y otros misterios reveals
Díaz-Llanillo’s kinship with Kafka and Borges, with whom she shares
a propensity toward allegory and metaphysics conveyed in parables
characterized by temporal play. Like Silvina Ocampo, Piñera, Cortázar
and Rosario Ferré, she evinces a dark and quite cynical sense of humor.
The bilingual edition is essential to fill vacuums in Cuban literary
history, an exceptional book worthy of serious perusal by any scholar of
—Jorge Febles, Professor Emeritus, University of North Florida
“Where have these fantastic stories been all my life? The fact that some
of these stories are a half-century old but only now available in English
is mind-boggling. With translations that capture the crisp, often
conversational style of the original, Manuel Martínez has done a great
service in conjuring for Anglophone readers the spirit and the mystery
of one of Cuba’s major literary figures.’
—Jeremy Glazier, Ohio Dominican University
“Puede decirse que, formalismos aparte, lo que seduce en la prosa de
Esther Díaz Llanillo, analizada con cierta distancia criticista, es su
facilidad para crear anécdotas que, partiendo de un concepto minimalista
—la rutina hogareña, la soledad de la mujer que envejece, los diarios
aconteceres oficinescos— se van enredando con misteriosas sustancias
que trasmutan el simple hecho cotidiano en materia alarmante. Porque
sus cuentos poseen una especie de latido interior capaz de imantar
al lector y obligarlo, —si, obligarlo— a llegar al punto máximo para
cualquier escritor: el punto final.”
--María Elena Llana, Cuban journalist and author of Casas del Vedado, recipient of the national 1984 Premio de la Crítica
Fiction. Latinx Studies. Women’s Studies. Translation.
Esther Díaz Llanillo (Havana, 1934-2015). PhD in Humanities, reference librarian, writer of fiction and critical essays. In 1957 she completed the coursework for her doctorate at the University of Havana, where two years later she finished her dissertation titled Jorge Luis Borges: su obra literaria (Jorge Luis Borges: His Literary Work). In 1960 the same institution awarded her the "Antonio Barreras" prize for her critical analysis El arte de novelar de Hernández Catá (Hernández Catá and the Art of Novel Writing). She also has published in the area of library studies. Collections of her short stories have been published with the titles of: El castigo (The Punishment, Ediciones R, 1966), Cuentos antes y después del sueño (Stories Before and After Dreaming, Letras Cubanas, 1999; 2.ed. Letras Cubanas, 2007), Cambio de vida (Life Altering, Letras Cubanas, 2002, comprised of two shorter volumes that received honorable mention in the Alejo Carpentier Prize 1999 and 2000 respectively, Cambio de vida [Life Altering] and Regresión [Regression]); Entre latidos (Between Heartbeats, Ediciones Unión, 2005), Los rostros (Faces, Ediciones Unión, 2008) El vendedor de cabezas (The Head Trade, Letras cubanas, 2009) and an anthology of her favorite works, Hablando de fantasmas y mucho más (When It Comes to Ghosts and Much More, Letras cubanas, 2011). Her stories have appeared in many anthologies and literary journals, in Cuba and beyond; they have been translated into English, Danish, and Farsi. In 2004 she was recognized with the Distinción Por la Cultura Nacional for her many contributions to Cuban culture.
Dr. Manuel Martínez is the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Ohio Dominican University. He was previously the Dean of Undergraduate Studies. He also previously taught courses in Spanish language, literature and culture. Before joining Ohio Dominican University, Dr. Martínez taught at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and the Université d'Angers in France. He has presented papers on contemporary Cuban writers and is published in the area of contemporary Caribbean literature with an emphasis on Cuban authors. Dr. Martinez is also a translator of literary texts. Before beginning his academic career, Dr. Martinez worked extensively in Latin America.