Book Review: ‘The Exiles and Other Stories’ – Horacio Quiroga

A cover, but not like mine … Image courtesy smile.amazon.com

I suppose I could have taken a photo of the cover of my book. However, I was being thrifty and purchased a used copy from Amazon Smile that had been rescued from the main stacks at the Tacoma Public Library.

I love library books. But I digress.

If you don’t know Mr. Quiroga’s work, don’t fret — I didn’t either until I was introduced to it via a rather unconventional way: in a newspaper from a cannot-be-mentioned source. I dashed over to (wait … can one actually dash to a web location?) the Amazon Smile site (where a portion of my purchases go to support Rhodesian Ridgeback rescue) to look up his work. A great deal is not in English, but this text and a few others, are. As this one was recommended in said paper, I bought it.

Mr. Quiroga is an Uruguayan writer and situates his stories in the region of Misiones (Argentina). I have never had the pleasure of traveling to South America, but read him and you will find yourself teleported:

On a stormy night in June, a man was walking furtively along a path in the depths of the jungles of Mato Grosso. The night was profoundly dark. The thunderclaps rumbled one after the other, and, to the massive churning of the sky, the jungle answered with the deep murmur of its trees shaken by the heavy wind. From time to time the sky was crossed by the livid flash of a lightning bolt; black and ghostly, the woods came into view, only to disappear instantly in the impenetrable darkness. (Beasts In Collusion)

And that was the first paragraph of the first story. Page four of my version.

It was also one of my favorite stories.

Oh, who am I kidding? I loved all 13 of them.

The most interesting part is that each story in some way connected to all the rest — either by characters or direct reference to storyline. Of course, each piece of the tale is situated close to the Rio Parana and describes the climate in such detail that readers can feel the heat and smell the oranges and yerba mate.

There is too much to say and it becomes too difficult to say it without reading aloud each word. A review does not do justice.

Go, dash.

Buy yourself a copy and while you’re at it, consider bundling it along with its partner collection of stories, ‘The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories’. It’s on my list, for sure.