A young mother learns to survive among the snakes, sleaze and slums of Buenos Aires
Paradises might be a reimagining of Camus’ Outsider – but in female form and living in 21st-century Buenos Aires. Our narrator allows the hazards of death and chance encounters to lead her through the city, where she sleepwalks into a job in the zoo’s reptile house and administers morphine to one of the oddball residents of the squat that she and her young son move into. Is this life in the shadows, an underworld of cut-price Christmases, drugs and dealers, or is this simply life? And why do snakes seem to be invading every aspect of it?
Paradises returns to the enigmatic female characters of Havilio’s first novel, Open Door – and has already been highly praised by Beatriz Sarlo, perhaps the most influential critic in his native Argentina. Thoughtful, yet unafraid of squalor or the perils of insecurity, this is a voice for right now, obliquely critical, grimly comic.
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Praise for Paradises
- ‘Iosi Havilio has caused a literary storm in Argentina. … His creation is of an inverted “paradise”, urban squalor a pole apart from the gardens of Paradise. It well reflects the inequalities and iniquities left by Argentina’s financial collapse at the turn of this century. This is the aftermath of an apocalypse.’ Amanda Hopkinson, The Independent
- ‘Havilio has found just the right tone and understated register to describe extremity. Paradises takes place in an irresistible, ghostly normality.’ Beatriz Sarlo
- ‘An original voice that does not resort to tried and tested formulae.’ El País
- ‘In contemporary Argentine literature, Paradises is an almost perfect novel.’ Revista Tónica
- ‘In his novels we find the invisible and essential work that only great writers are capable of.’ Fabián Casas, author of Los Lemmings
- ‘This is a novel which follows its own rules, and it works — on its own terms.’ Paula McGrath, Gorse
- ‘… because of this accent on the dystopian, I thoroughly recommend this unusual novel. It is very readable and strangely enjoyable though wickedly weird with its insidious and invidious images… It compels the reader to progress laterally, yet literally, through its pages, all the time feeling rather like one has been invited to [a] very strange costume party.’ Vaughan Rapatahana, Scoop Review of Books
- ‘This sparkling novel is full of contradictions . . . Havilio thus uses his narrator as a vehicle for a wider commentary on the human condition, which questions whether we are really as free as we think we are—what do we control and what controls us?’ Three Percent
- ‘I was drawn to a woman who, though lacking any moral compass, could make me smile with her wryly humorous observations.’ Wendy Smith, Whichbook
- ‘Paradises is pervaded by a dreamlike, grotesque quality at times … it’s almost like a journey into a twisted fairy tale. … Havilio’s style is simple, but hypnotic.’ Tony Malone, tonysreadinglist
- ‘I really enjoyed this book, although I’m not quite sure why or what it’s really all about. It’s beautifully written and translated with a compelling voice from the unnamed narrator that pulled me into the story and made me want to know what would happen next … a highly readable book … one that I found almost impossible to pin down.’ Rachel Ward, A Discount Ticket to Everywhere
- ‘Havilio’s passion lies with the powerless. An inexhaustible stream of eccentric, believable characters, the down-and-out, downtrodden marginal citizens of Buenos Aires, parades through his fiction.’ Nick DiMartino, Shelf Awareness
- ‘I found myself drawn in by the language and my growing anxiety to know what was coming next; whether action or meditation … The voice of Havilio’s narrator has grown on me.’ Michael Johnson, Akanos
- ‘In some ways this is a story of survival.’ Kate Gardner, Nose in a Book
- ‘A chronicle of events within a life, and the life is not particularly consciously lived. Perhaps this is why Havilio has been compared to Albert Camus; his main character parallels the existential passivity of Mersault in The Outsider… It’s something of a series of dots, which different readers will connect in different ways.’ Adam Ley-Lange, We Love This Book
- ‘I can’t really describe this strange and mesmerizing book any better than the publisher’s do here: “Is this life in the shadows, an underworld of cut-price Christmases, drugs and dealers, or is this simply life?” Oddly, this doesn’t only capture this great Argentine novel, but my most recently celebrated holiday season.’ Literalab
Praise for Open Door
- ‘Look out for Open Door by the much-praised Iosi Havilio.’ Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
- ‘Iosi Havilio’s remarkable first novel brings news of an intriguing world’ Martin Schifino, The Independent
- ‘With minimalist beauty and exquisite strangeness, Iosi Havilio offers a mesmerising addition to the literature of solitude.’ Chloe Aridjis
- ‘An ambiguous tale that verges on dark comedy … With skill and subtlety, the novel hints that a whole society might labour under an illusion of liberty.’ The Economist
- ‘Deliberately unshowy, so that plot twists can unfold in the quietest ways.’ Fatema Ahmed, Prospect
- ‘There is a lot of sex and violence in Open Door, but it is never gratuitous. … You have in your hands a masterpiece.’ Oscar Guardiola-Rivera
- ‘There’s no spoiling Open Door, Iosi Havilio’s enigmatic first novel … readers will have a hard time leaving Open Door.’ The Revew of Contemporary Fiction
- ‘A moving and highly original novel. A good translation is one that convinces as a work in its own right. That is what we get here.’ Margaret Jull Costa, In Other Words (journal of the British Centre for Literary Translation)
- ‘Havilio handles the narrator’s listlessness with remarkable dexterity and maintains the reader’s attention throughout … a novel which will flourish under many re-readings.’ Annabella Massey, Cadaverine
- ‘Open Door really surprised me, it doesn’t obey any of the laws of reading, it feels like it sprang out of nowhere.’ Beatriz Sarlo, Perfil
- ‘Open Door is not a choral novel but a series of solitary songs sung in intimate keys. It contains a tale to mull over, a story not easy to forget.’ El País
- ‘Living, some say, is much easier than thinking about life. This seems to be the almost unconscious guiding force that drives the heroine of Open Door, Iosi Havilio’s first book; a sober, restrained novel through which his mature craft shines.’ Susana Rosana, Clarín
- ‘His opera prima touches nerves in the literature and history of his country, themes such as absence, identity and the conflict between city and country; but the style is unusual, a virtuoso display of muted prose. […] Havilio may well be an attentive reader of Camus: a barely lyrical phrase such as ‘‘I flop onto my back in the grass and the sky renders me speechless’’ recalls The Outsider. […] The internal variety, the technical command, the originality of the setting and the freshness of the voice are all worthy of mention.’ Martin Schifino. Revista del Libro
- ‘Open Door is a confusing, bewildering, riveting book; a paen, of sorts, to both the pursuit of solitude and the futility of that pursuit.’ Eleutherophobia
- ‘Havilio is a clever writer but he doesn’t forget that, first and foremost, good writing must be readable and enjoyable. This novel is both.’ The Lone Reader
- ‘This surreal novel is both dense enough and short enough to warrant re-readings and will especially appeal to fans of the TV series Twin Peaks.’ Publishers Weekly
- ‘Open Door includes two of my favorite subjects in literature: Argentina and insane asylums.’ Three Percent