It was only in 2021 that I first came across or rather, started reading literature that could be somewhat categorized as horror. As a person who has never read anything of the sort before, it was a startling discovery for me.
But what was all the more surprising was how quickly I took to it — like perhaps an unfurling of one’s true self, and finding safety and similarity in what had seemed dangerous or alien before.
And so I read and re-read these stories and when I found an anthology of such spooky fantasy/horror stories at my local Sunday bookmarklet for just 100 INR, I scooped it up. Suffice it to say, I am enjoying the tales in the book and will perhaps share my thoughts on it soon!
But today, I want to share those very first three books that opened my eyes to this genre of literature. I had dedicated entire Medium posts to each of them — racking my brain to try to weave words that could justify what I felt for each of them.
I cannot still completely grasp those feelings — they are out there, floating in the ether and I can only trust, that you (the delightful reader) will successfully grasp my intimations.
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, by Mariana Enriquez
The first book that introduced me to this glittering yet unnerving world of literature, was Mariana Enrique’s collection that was shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize. I had come across the synopsis and despite the weirdness, I was intrigued.
I remember writing in my Medium article for it: At first glance at the synopsis, one might think that the stories are gross and disgusting and that would be reason enough to rate it really low. But on the contrary, I have quite possibly never read anything like this. I loved it, yes, with all its weirdness, its fetishes, and all its horror. I read it and I loved it and I rated it 5 stars.
At first glance at the synopsis, one might think that the stories are gross and disgusting and that would be reason enough to rate it really low. But on the contrary, I have quite possibly never read anything like this. I loved it, yes, with all its weirdness, its fetishes, and all its horror. I read it and I loved it and I rated it 5 stars.
I was simply blown away. Like I mentioned in the beginning, I had never before read anything of this kind and so, I could not really fathom what I was reading. I surely appreciated it — but did I understand the implication of it? This time, when I did a reread of this book, things were more meaningful. Or rather, I understood them better.
You can see my full review here:
Mouthful of Birds, by Samanta Schweblin
Since I loved The Dangers of Smoking in Bed so much, I of course read it from cover to cover. I read the blurbs, the acknowledgements, and all of the fine print. And so I discovered that the translator Megan McDowell had also translated the works of Samanta Schweblin.
I had by then, collected a vast number of books (some of which I got precisely because of the affordable rates they were tagged at during a sale). Coincidentally, one of those very books was Samanta Schweblin’s Mouthful of Birds. This book too had been longlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize.
Butterflies always give me the heebie-jeebies. People laugh when I tell them I am dead-scared of butterflies (and moths as well). And yet I had bought this book. Perhaps that was a sign in itself. A ‘mouthful’ of birds — how gross! And against that title, the luminescent glow of the fluttering and restless butterflies. I shudder even now.
And so, like a masochist, I read this collection too. It was another fantastic piece of work that stayed with me. I cannot say enough about it. It was macabre, sobering, but also like the disgusting smell of rot that stays on you, even after you pass by a garbage dump. The stories stayed with me. They live in me.
You can see my full review here:
Things We Lost in the Fire, by Mariana Enriquez
The third book in this genre (but definitely not the last) that I read was a recent November 2021 read that I went to many lengths to get a copy of. This was too was a Mariana Enriquez, and was translated by Megan McDowell.
My second time reading Mariana Enriquez was a bit more critical. I understood the nuances and found some time to be enthralled by the translation itself — and imagined the loss I would have unknowingly suffered had they not been translated to English.
And then, most importantly, and because I had been given a primer to this book, in the form of my experience with the two previous ones, I did my own research on Argentina’s history.
I wrote in my article: I learned about Argentina’s tumultuous history and how it affected the collective conscious — which is so very reflective in the stories in this collection… The real horror in this collection, and in general in Mariana Enriquez’s literature, is how we react to the social realism (which is of course, nuanced) in her work — and therefore, our realization of how inhumane we are or can be.
I learned about Argentina’s tumultuous history and how it affected the collective conscious — which is so very reflective in the stories in this collection… The real horror in this collection, and in general in Mariana Enriquez’s literature, is how we react to the social realism (which is of course, nuanced) in her work — and therefore, our realization of how inhumane we are or can be.
You can read my full review here:
My To-Be-Read List
Now that I know of the kind of horror I like, I am planning on reading the following books next. They are of course not exactly similar in theme and writing but I personally found a similarity in the genre and that is why I want to explore them next.
- Strange Dreams, by Stephen R. Donaldson (a short story collection)
- Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer (Book 1 of Southern Reach series)
- Wilder Girls, by Rory Powers
- House of Hollow, by Krystal Sutherland
- Tender Is the Flesh, by Agustina Bazterrica
- Nothing But Blackened Teeth, by Cassandra Khaw
- Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, by Eric LaRocca
So that’s it! If you have read any of these, do let me know what you thought of them!
Nayanika Saikia graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and was also a Dean’s List student. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree and is also a Booktuber and Bookstagrammer. She can often be found on her Instagram account Pretty Little Bibliophile. You can support me by Buying Me a Coffee.