Stories by María Ospina, translated by Heather Cleary
July 6, 2021 • 5 x 7.75 • 136 pages • 978-1-56689-610-8
A constellation of short stories illustrate the intersecting lives of women on various peripheries of society in and around Bogotá, Colombia.
In six subtly connected stories, Variations on the Body explores the obsessions, desires, and idiosyncrasies of women and girls from different strata of Colombian society. A former FARC guerilla fighter adjusts to urban life and faces the new violence of an editor co-opting her experiences. A woman adrift in the city she left as a child looks for someone to care for, even if it has to be by force, while another documents a flea infestation with a catalog of the marks on her flesh. A little girl copes with her anxiety about the adult world by exacting revenge on her nanny, who she thinks belongs to her. Combining humor, heartbreak, and unexpected violence, Ospina constructs a keen reflection on the body as a simultaneous vehicle of connection and alienation in vibrant, gleaming prose.
About the Author
María Ospina was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and teaches Latin American culture at Wesleyan University. She has written about memory, violence, and culture in contemporary Colombia. Her stories have appeared in anthologies in Colombia and Italy. Azares del cuerpo, her first book of fiction, has been published in Colombia, Chile, Spain, and Italy.
About the TranslatorHeather Cleary’s translations include Betina González’s American Delirium, Roque Larraquy’s Comemadre (nominee, National Book Award for Translated Literature 2018), and Sergio Chejfec’s The Planets (finalist, Best Translated Book Award 2013) and The Dark (nominee, National Translation Award 2014). A member of the Cedilla & Co. translation collective and a founding editor of the digital, bilingual Buenos Aires Review, she teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.
Praise for Variations on the Body
Chicago Review of Books, “12 Must-Read Books for July”
The Rumpus, “What to Read When You Want to Celebrate Women's History”
Book Riot, “Must-Read Books in Translation”
Literary Hub,“The Best of Independent Presses this July”
“Somatic upsets express the psychic fallout of violent conflict in Colombia, where women wrestle with how to steer a life. . . . Cleary, a National Book Award nominee for her translation of Roque Larraquy’s Comemadre, preserves the muted suggestiveness of Ospina’s prose.” —Tracy O’Neill, The New York Times
“In Ospina’s smart, vibrant debut collection, women struggle to carve out lives for themselves. . . . Ospina draws out the class distinctions among her characters with stark, incisive contrasts.” —Publishers Weekly
“Bold and penetrating.” —Karla J. Strand, Ms. Magazine
“Short stories fans in search of a new obsession, look no further. . . . Weaving together a complex interconnected portrait of girls and women in Bogotá, Colombia, this crystalline translation from Heather Cleary has an offbeat sensibility reminiscent of Joy Williams, where the potential for inexplicable violence exists alongside the mundane.” —Chicago Review of Books
“Some women attempt to control their own narratives by way of controlling their bodies . . . while others are intrigued to the point of obsession by the narratives and bodies of others. Men exist on the periphery, but these are women-led and women-focused stories. . . . Ospina manages to address themes of control, intrastate conflict, and women’s bodies while keeping her reader inside the story.” —Zoe Goldstein, World Literature Today
“Creates striking parallels throughout. . . . Variations on The Body is interested in how a body is edited and modified to be presented to others.” —Sarah McEachern, The Rupture
“Debut story collections don't come any finer than María Ospina's Variations on the Body. The Colombian author's first work of fiction contains six short pieces, each unique and memorable in their own way. With Colombian women as her protagonists, Ospina's leads yearn at the margins, crave connection, discover and explore their own agency, and seek growth, change, or amelioration of their outsider status. Ospina writes with poise, profundity, and enviable emotional intelligence. Her characters, perfectly imperfect, are imbued with authenticity and the cunning wherewithal to navigate a senseless world of violence, disregard, and neglect. Variations on the Body is an outstanding collection of short fiction and María Ospina is definitely a writer to watch (and await more from).” —Jeremy Garber, Powell's Books
“Thematically, with its emphasis on the complex interplay between psychology and the female body, Ospina’s work recalls that of the Argentine writers Mariana Enriquez and Samanta Schweblin, albeit without the horror tropes that those writers employ. Ospina’s aesthetic is overtly realist, and her style is grounded in the careful accumulation of details that add up to a greater whole.” —Kathleen Solomon, Chicago Review of Books
“Throughout these stories, women take care of other women, women resist or succumb to the violence and demands of society, and women contemplate the beautiful. . . . Not a catalog of all the ways a female body is blatantly battered by society, but rather a gentle and nuanced exploration of female physical existence in Bogotá.” —Brittany Cole, Slanted Spines
“María Ospina has created an artifact that's both luminous and dark, tender and cruel, whose inhabitants move in a shared space sculpted by violence—the narcoguerrilla and its tentacles. Within these pages, there shines a fine and beautiful diamond of sharp, fearsome faces.” —Carmen Boullosa
“Ospina is a remarkable talent, and Heather Cleary, an extraordinary translator. I love the offbeat, flea-bitten reality Variations on the Body captures: Marxist guerillas, stray dogs, dolls, vivid dreams. It’s as if Ospina has cut beautiful, odd scraps from our world using her own unique writer-made scissors.” —Camilla Grudova