THE TAIGA SYNDROME by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated by Suzanne Jill Levine & Aviva Kana, has by far one of the most startlingly beautiful prose within it’s covers. This brief novella is an exquisite lesson of what is both said and not said, but also long form poetry at its absolute core.
The reader follows a failed detective turned noir author, who is tasked with searching for a woman, who has run away with another man into the taiga. It is down this slippery fairy tale-esque slope the reader tumbles down as they begin to question that maybe this was the correct path or maybe, there is no correct path at all.
Garza’s writing embodies both conventional and unconventional techniques to elicit not only a longing for something ethereal, but a fair amount of anxiety. THE TAIGA SYNDROME is itself a psychosis named for the place it occurs. The detective is a woman who bears plenty of scars and a desire to escape her somewhat disappointing life. She takes on the job to find a man’s wife, though she doubts she can do it. She has made her writing career an success based on her failed cases as a detective. Joined by a translator, the pair go into the boreal forest in hopes of finding the woman, but they find a place thrown back and twisted by folktales and economic struggle.
Yet, it is not the characters who are at the center of this stage. Garza makes this work an embodiment of translation and not only do the characters have to parse what the denizens of the taiga, but the reader has to sift through the actual translated words of the story. This double filter adds a new layer of experience and one that needs to be commended for making fiction such an active and present project to the careful reader. Couple this, with how the words will haunt you for days after you have finished, makes this story quite memorable.
I have to plug Tin House’s podcast, BETWEEN THE COVERS, with host, David Naimon, since that’s where I stumbled on this book in the first place.
Extremely recommended for readers of literary or experimental literature.