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Comemadre

A novel by Roque Larraquy, translated by Heather Cleary

July 10, 2018 • 5 x 7.75 • 152 pages • 978-1-56689-515-6

Literary Latin American Flatliners: a smart, engrossing, and darkly funny novel experimenting with where life and love begin and end.

On the outskirts of Buenos Aires in 1907, Doctor Quintana pines for head nurse Menéndez while he and his colleagues embark on a grisly series of experiments to investigate the line between life and death. One hundred years later, a celebrated artist goes to extremes in search of aesthetic transformation, turning himself into an art object. How far are we willing to go, Larraquy asks, in pursuit of transcendence? The world of Comemadre is full of vulgarity, excess, and farce: strange ants that form almost perfect circles, missing body parts, obsessive love affairs, and flesh-eating plants. Here the monstrous is not alien, but the consequence of our relentless pursuit of collective and personal progress.

About the Author

Roque Larraquy is an Argentinian writer, screenwriter, professor of narrative and audiovisual design, and the author of two books, La comemadre and Informe sobre ectoplasma animal. Comemadre will be his first book published in English.

Heather Cleary’s translations include César Rendueles’s Sociophobia, Sergio Chejfec’s The Planets and The Dark, and a selection of Oliverio Girondo’s poetry for New Directions.


Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.

Reviews

Longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature
Publishers Weekly, Best Books of 2018 in Fiction


“Shuttling between B-movie horror and exceedingly dark comedy, the novel is somehow both genuinely scary and genuinely funny, sometimes on the same page—a wickedly entertaining ride.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Grotesque, outrageous, and insanely funny, [Comemadre] has almost no equal in literature.” —BOMB

“Sad, funny, and pitch-perfect.” —World Literature Today

“The prose is distilled but rich—like dark chocolate.” —Chicago Tribune

“The absurd is planted and buried throughout Comemadre, creating a sense of constant doubt and uncertainty. The writing is sparse and evocative, even as it takes considerable risks. The effect accomplishes a great deal in short spaces.” —Full Stop 

Comemadre creates a full circle of the grotesqueries humans inflict upon one another in pursuit of immortality. . . . Read Larraquy to experience a strange waking dream from which there is no escape.” —Arkansas International

“It’s a brief novel, but its impact is massive.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn 

“In this dark, dense, surprisingly short debut novel by the Argentinian author, we’re confronted with enough grotesqueries to fill a couple Terry Gilliam films and, more importantly, with the idea that the only real monsters are those that are formed out of our own ambition.” —The Millions 

“Layered without growing dense, the book is crisply comic, scenes punctuated like punchlines. That it all happens within a mere 130 pages is a sort of magic trick—the dizzying kind where a body gets sawed in half.” —The A.V. Club

“A deeply unnerving and morbidly fascinating novel.” —Booklist 

“Larraquy ventures into the gothic here, only to push beyond it into an even more disquieting realm of obsession, transformation, and the monstrous unknown.” —Words Without Borders

“Funny, grotesque and smart.” —Brazos Bookstore

“The gruesome content is handled with an absurdist touch.” —Publishers Weekly

“A strange, wild story-slash-philosophical-meander along the lines of art, life, love, and death.” —Remezcla 

“One of the most bizarre, darkly comic and fascinating books that I’ve read this year.” —Beyond the Epilogue

“I love Comemadre. But here I am, days after reading, still asking myself what kind of book it is. Is it humor? Horror? Is it about art? Science? Philosophy? One thing is certain: it is just the kind of book that you’ll want to recommend to your friends over and over again, and here I am, still doing it!” —Samanta Schweblin

“Like a beloved B movie, this is the campy horror show all my fellow sickos have been waiting for.” —Keaton Patterson

“Larraquy has written a perfect novel: spare, urgent, funny, original, and infused with wonderfully subtle grace. I neglected my domestic duties to devour it.” —Elisa Albert

“Moving from a sanatorium at the beginning of the twentieth century in which the doctors decide to use their patients as fodder for a deadly experiment, to an artist at the beginning of the twenty-first who pushes the fleshy manipulations of Chris Burden and Damien Hurst to a new extreme, Comemadre is a raucous and irreverent philosophical meditation on the relationship of the body to science and to art. Walking a line between parody and critique, this is a grotesquely funny and powerful book.” —Brian Evenson

Comemadre is one of the wildest and most disturbing novels I’ve read. With a language that dissects the world while describing it, Roque Larraquy constructs a dark fable about the annihilation of the body, about perversions of art and science. Heather Cleary’s magnificent translation does justice to this extravagant gem—composed like a Hieronymus Bosch diptych that sets us before the monsters of unleashed reason.” —Daniel Saldaña París

Comemadre is a sensory experience: images repeat, ‘confession’ has a smell, and obsession feels palpable. The two narrative threads within this wildly strange and perversely humorous novel map the expansive life of the mind, the drive to make a mark on history, and the impact of transgressions in art and science. If a Dalí painting could speak, it would tell us this violently charming tale of ants marching in perfect circles and bodies pushed beyond the limits of the possible.” —Elizabeth Willis, Avid Bookshop

“I’m not entirely sure what the fuck just happened, but, whatever you might say about Roque Larraquy’s Comemadre, you sure as hell will have something to say. A dizzying, macabre, yet ultimately deliriously delicious tale of medical testing, decapitations, botanically-born flesh-eating larvae, unrequited love, deformities, and extreme art, Comemadre won’t soon be easily forgotten (if ever it is). Larraquy, an Argentinean screenwriter who has also penned two books (Comemadre being the first translated into English), is whirlwindishly creative and evidently possessed of a prodigious, if darkly tinged, imagination.

Two distinct narratives, ultimately linked yet set 102 years apart, combine to grotesque and lasting effect. Larraquy writes fantastically and, however unlikely it may seem given its obsessive subjects, with considerable humor. The same unsettling, disquieting feeling one might be left with after engaging, say, Georges Bataille’s The Story of the Eye or fellow Argentinean author Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream is present in spades. Comemadre never flinches, however much its readers inevitably must. Comemadre lures, bedevils, and ultimately enamors—distending reality (and decency) in the process. Feral fiction at its finest, Larraquy’s Comemadre is beach reading if you inexplicably find yourself marooned with Piggy, Jack, Ralph, and the rest of Golding’s deserted island boys.” —Jeremy Garber, Powell’s Books

“Part horror, part dark comedy, part philosophy.” —Unabridged Bookstore

Praise for Roque Larraquy:

“Who the devil is this Roque Larraquy? His first book seems like an artifact written with four hands—amid laughter and hidden from everyone—by Jorge Luis Borges and Witold Gombrowicz. Or maybe not Gombrowicz, but Virgilio Piñera. Or maybe not Borges, but Villiers de L’Isle-Adam adapted by Paul Valéry (did you know Valéry spent his youth digging up skulls to make calculations?). What is certain is that this truly magnificent novel exudes intelligence, humor, cynicism, cruelty. Cold passion with unsettling—and unexpectedly moving—effects.” —Ignacio Echevarría

“In spite of having all the necessary ingredients for a historical novel (the clinic, sordid and suburban; the positivist, anthropometric delusions), it’s not a historical novel; in spite of possessing, at first glance, the traits that generally mark ‘realistic fiction,’ (the cross between conceptual art, spectacle, and biopolitics; the gray areas of death, sickness and animalism as thresholds of humanity), something in its tone subjects the reality to a process of distancing treating it as a foreign body—alien—neither completely alive nor completely dead.” —Diego Peller, Bazar Americano

“Larraquy spent seven years writing his first book . . . and another three passed before the appearance of his second. We don’t know how long it will take him to publish his next one, but we intuit that there will be a third and a fourth, because in what we’ve seen of his work up to now there is a discernible literary project—a project that’s difficult to define, for which terms like ‘story,’ ‘novel,’ or ‘poetry’ are insufficient.” —Maximiliano Tomas, La Nación