In his translation of Martha Batiz’s The Wolf ‘s Mouth, Gustavo Escobedo has stayed true to the novella’s reputation. In 2007, Batiz’s work was recognized by the Latin American contest, Casa De Teatro, as a work of insight and sensitivity. Escobedo’s English translation ensures that these qualities remain in the text, translating with clarity, precision and eloquence.
The novella is divided into two voices. First, there is the fragile voice of a young, successful opera singer, Damiana. The second is a third-person voice that accounts for Damiana’s sister, Tamara, who seemingly abuses alcohol as a method of coping with her strange and dysfunctional family life. Right before Damiana goes on stage to perform in Mozart’s Figaro, she discovers that her father has been hospitalized. The narrative pivots around the discovery of their father’s grave illness and the difficulty the broken family has dealing with it. Batiz artfully weaves the painful memories of Damiana’s life into this tension; her father’s abusive relationship with their late mother, her miserable love life and her inability to come to terms with her mother’s death. The latter is a mystery that, beneath the immediate action, is one of the novella’s driving plot points. As the lives of Damiana, Tamara, and those surrounding them reconnect, collide and more deeply entangle, Batiz slowly strips away the layers of haze that obscure the truth behind her mother’s death, leading to a quiet but powerful end.
Aside from being a well written, well translated and captivating read, Batiz’s treatment of memory is an aspect of the novel that is most engaging. She reminds us that our past is what makes us. More than this, Batiz shows us that memory doesn’t only rest in our head, but that we store our memories in scent, in bodies, in blood and in each other. (Eric Schmaltz)
by Martha Batiz, Translated by Gustavo Escobedo, $17.95, 141 pgs, Exile Editions, 144483 Southgate Road 14, Holstein, ON, N0G 2A0