The Taiga Syndrome
Winner of the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award
From the author of The Iliac Crest, a Lynchian noir where an Ex-Detective tracks a missing couple in a ravaged no-man’s-land.
A fairy tale run amok, The Taiga Syndrome follows an unnamed Ex-Detective as she searches for a couple that has fled to the far reaches of the Earth. A betrayed husband is convinced by a brief telegram that his second ex-wife wants him to track her down – that she wants to be found. He hires the Ex-Detective, who sets out with a translator into a snowy, hostile forest where strange things happen and translation serves to betray both sense and the senses. The stories of Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood haunt the Ex-Detective’s quest. As she enters a territory overrun with the primitive excesses of capitalism – accumulation and expulsion, corruption and cruelty –the lessons of her journey unfold: that sometimes leaving everything behind is the only thing left to do.
Read an Excerpt
- Cristina Rivera Garza is the only two-time winner of the International Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize (2001; 2009).
- Find out more about Cristina Rivera Garza and her previous novel The Iliac Crest.
- Cristina Rivera Garza gave an in depth discussion about the language and themes of The Taiga Syndrome with Los Angeles Review of Books.
- Read an interview with Cristina Rivera Garza in The Millions.
- Cristina Rivera Garza wrote The Unusual, a manifesto on women authors for Pen Transmissions.
- Read Cristina Rivera Garza’s short story for the Paris Review, ‘Simple Pleasure. Pure Pleasure.’
- Upon US publication in 2018, The Taiga Syndrome won The Shirley Jackson Award.
‘One of Mexico’s greatest living writers.’
‘The Taiga Syndrome by Cristina Rivera Garza is a dark, daring contemporary fable with echoes from the past. Small, short, covered in gray, it sparkles on the page and dazzles the mind.’
'A suspenseful fable [that] defies traditional narrative.'
Through her powerful command of language, she eases the reader into her nightmarish fairytale.'
‘An explosive writer yet to be fully accounted for in English.’
'Cristina Rivera Garza does not respect what is expected of a writer, of a novel, of language. She is an agitator.’
‘The contemporary Latin American detective novel is a form that uses the individual’s rollicking quest as a means of resistance against repressive structures and the violences they engender. Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Taiga Syndrome, in this stellar translation by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana, gives English-language readers a lyrically luminous take on the genre while not skimping on its adventurous antics. If The Taiga Syndrome is a book of illness, it’s also about exile, disappearance, borders, love, language and translation, desire, capitalism and its discontents, fairy tales, and what it means to be possessed by the madness of others and the madness of ourselves. The murmurs that haunt the detective in the novel evoke the history of Mexican fiction, most notably Juan Rulfo. But this is not a religious state of purgatory. It’s more like Apocalypse Now fused with the worlds of Clarice Lispector and Jorge Luis Borges. In other words, there is no one writing novels as phantasmagorically exquisite as Cristina Rivera Garza’s. The Taiga Syndrome, which is both quietly poetic and narratively unhinged, is a crucial addition to her distinguished oeuvre.’
‘Innovative Mexican author Rivera Garza’s dazzling speculative noir novel is narrated by a woman hired to find a man’s missing second wife… As she tracks the mysterious couple over snow-covered trails in the boreal forest, the universe becomes eerie and unpredictable. She encounters a feral boy, a ferocious wolf, earthy villagers and wild lumberjacks. Rivera Garza invokes Hansel and Gretel as she spins her marvellous, atmospheric tale.’
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
‘This novel, in a translation by Levine and Kana, is taut, lyrical, and strange, and it fits right in with Dorothy, A Publishing Project’s commitment to work that challenges what genres and forms can do. Like the best speculative fiction, it follows the sinuous paths of its own logic but gives the reader plenty of room to play. Fans of fairy tales and detective stories, Kathryn Davis and Idra Novey, will all find something to love. An eerie, slippery gem of a book.’
Publishers Weekly, starred review
‘As lyrical as a poem (“Look at this: your knees. They are used for kneeling upon reality, also for crawling, terrified. You use them to sit on a lotus flower and say goodbye to the immensity”) and as fantastic as a fairy tale, Rivera Garza’s gorgeous, propulsive novel will haunt readers long after it’s finished.’
‘A Lynchian noir from one of Mexico’s best novelists tracks a missing couple in a ravaged no-man’s-land, weaving a mystery out of fairy tales, disaster capitalism, and shadowy afflictions.’
Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado
Los Angeles Review of Books
'Readers of this book will encounter one of the most fiercely original literary voices from Latin America.’
Politics & Prose
'Mystery, sci-fi, Socratic dialogue, retelling of ‘Hansel and Gretel’: The Taiga Syndrome is a delightful shape-shifter of a novel.’
'This insanely creepy & brilliant book by the incomparable Cristina Rivera Garza will keep you awake at night. Garza is a master of atmosphere. A detective novel directed by David Lynch & narrated by Bolaño.’
'Wood, snow, blood: old stories. The witch in the forest, the breadcrumb trail, the grandmother-skinned wolf – everybody’s here, in this wild little book, breath steaming humid in the cold air.’
Veronica Scott Esposito
'Rivera Garza belongs to the tradition of iconoclastic writers who question why our world has to be the way it is. This is the sort of powerful inquiry that often brings art to its most immersive, rewarding, and generative place. Read her books and explore your own taiga.’
The A.V. Club
‘In plain, lyrical language, [Rivera] Garza drapes a poetic hush over the narrative, creating an unsettling fable-like world. It’s a mystery that creeps, with careful, steady steps.’
‘So far so noir, except that this summary, along with every other summary I’ve seen in reviews and copy for The Taiga Syndrome, fails to give an accurate impression of the experience of reading the book. First, the story is nonlinear, not in a Memento kind of way but in a You-realize-time-is-an-illusion-don’t-you? one. What there is in the way of plot – and there is plot here – is dominated by an obsession with language.’
‘Diaphanously translated by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana, this deceivingly spare, noir fairy tale can be read (devoured) at a sitting, but the subconscious wounds it (in)exacts may fester in one’s non-fiction ever after.’
'Come for the satisfying sense of utter disorientation, stay for the gangly homunculus that bursts out of the woman’s mouth in the middle of the night.’
'[Rivera] Garza doesn’t stop with fairy tales, however; she inverts traditional tropes from any number of genres to great effect. The subject of the mystery is not the crime or even the victim, but the detective. The unreliable narrator reports on her own unreliability.’