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The Bitch
Cover of The Bitch
The Bitch
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LONGLISTED FOR 2020 THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN TRANSLATED LITERATURE

In Colombia's brutal jungle, childless Damaris develops an intense and ultimately doomed relationship with an orphaned puppy.

"The magic of this sparse novel is its ability to talk about many things, all of them important, while seemingly talking about something else entirely. What are those things? Violence, loneliness, resilience, cruelty. Quintana works wonders with her disillusioned, no-nonsense, powerful prose." Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Sound of Things Falling

"The Bitch is a novel of true violence. Artist that she is, Pilar Quintana uncovers wounds we didn't know we had, shows us their beauty, and then throws a handful of salt into them." Yuri Herrera, author of Signs Preceding the End of the World

Colombia's Pacific coast, where everyday life entails warding off the brutal forces of nature. In this constant struggle, nothing is taken for granted. Damaris lives with her fisherman husband in a shack on a bluff overlooking the sea. Childless and at that age "when women dry up," as her uncle puts it, she is eager to adopt an orphaned puppy. But this act may bring more than just affection into her home. The Bitch is written in a prose as terse as the villagers, with storms―both meteorological and emotional―lurking around each corner. Beauty and dread live side by side in this poignant exploration of the many meanings of motherhood and love.

LONGLISTED FOR 2020 THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN TRANSLATED LITERATURE

In Colombia's brutal jungle, childless Damaris develops an intense and ultimately doomed relationship with an orphaned puppy.

"The magic of this sparse novel is its ability to talk about many things, all of them important, while seemingly talking about something else entirely. What are those things? Violence, loneliness, resilience, cruelty. Quintana works wonders with her disillusioned, no-nonsense, powerful prose." Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Sound of Things Falling

"The Bitch is a novel of true violence. Artist that she is, Pilar Quintana uncovers wounds we didn't know we had, shows us their beauty, and then throws a handful of salt into them." Yuri Herrera, author of Signs Preceding the End of the World

Colombia's Pacific coast, where everyday life entails warding off the brutal forces of nature. In this constant struggle, nothing is taken for granted. Damaris lives with her fisherman husband in a shack on a bluff overlooking the sea. Childless and at that age "when women dry up," as her uncle puts it, she is eager to adopt an orphaned puppy. But this act may bring more than just affection into her home. The Bitch is written in a prose as terse as the villagers, with storms―both meteorological and emotional―lurking around each corner. Beauty and dread live side by side in this poignant exploration of the many meanings of motherhood and love.

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  • Kirkus

    June 1, 2020
    The lives of a disobedient dog and its melancholy owner grow entangled in this allegorical novella. The first novel published in English by the Colombian writer Quintana centers on Damaris, who's living in a coastal town with an oft-absent fisherman husband, minding the home of the Reyeses, friends of her family. When she's offered a puppy from a litter, the dog is at once a balm for her loneliness and a reminder of it: Unable to have children, she names the dog Chirli, after "the daughter I never had." Chirli is an emotional trigger, and Damaris is soon recalling her failed efforts through healers to get pregnant and a moment in her childhood as she watched the Reyeses' son get washed away by a large wave hitting a rocky shore. Every incident in this brief novel seems calibrated to show life's tenuousness and violence: Humans and dogs die via gunshot, hatchet, and poison, and Damaris' relationship with the dog frays as Chirli disappears into the nearby jungle, returning only to disappear again. Though the novel is short, Quintana patiently explores Damaris' darkening mood, as Chirli's untamed nature echoes its owner's despair over keeping life under control: "Alone, totally alone, in a body that bore her no children and was good only for breaking things." As Damaris' and Chirli's lives take increasingly tragic turns, their restless natures feel increasingly broadly symbolic of the difficulty of domesticating ourselves and others, even when it serves our best interests. In an author's note, Quintana said she was inspired by seeing a female dog's corpse on her first day on Colombia's Pacific coast. "I thought, there is a huge story here," she writes. "Huge" overstates things, but it's an intense story despite its brevity. A somber and sensitive dog-and-owner tale scrubbed clean of the genre's usual sweetness.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 15, 2020
    A searing psychological portrait of a troubled woman contending with her instinct to nurture is at the heart of Colombian writer Quintana’s slim, potent English-language debut. Damaris, a lonely married woman, adopts a puppy from her neighbor and brings her to the small shack she shares with her husband, Rogelio, atop a jungle bluff overlooking the sea. Rogelio, a fisherman, hates dogs but owns three to protect his property. As Damaris pampers the dog, Quintana reveals through straightforward, commanding prose the couple’s history of failed attempts at having a child, and Damaris’s memories of loss, such as her mother being killed by a stray bullet and a neighbor boy being taken out to sea by a wave when they were eight. As the puppy, named Chirli after the daughter Damaris never had, grows, so does Damaris’s love for the dog, until Chirli disappears into the jungle. When the dog returns malnourished and wounded, Damaris nurses her back to health until she disappears again. The pattern continues, and Damaris grows resentful toward Chirli and becomes violent with her. The brutal scenes unfold quickly, with lean, stinging prose. Quintana’s vivid novel about love, betrayal, and abandonment hits hard. Agent: Sandra Pareja, Casanovas & Lynch Literary Agency.

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