Ana María Shua
© Silvio Fabrikant
Ana María Shua was born in Buenos Aires in 1951. She studied literature at the University of Buenos Aires and has been working in advertising and as a journalist. Shua’s children books have been a great success in Argentina and Korea and she is regarded as the Queen of Microfiction in the Spanish speaking world. Important literary awards are the recognition of her work. She has been awarded the first Premio Iberoamericano Juan José Arreola in the category of mini-fiction.
In 2016 she was awarded the first Premio Iberoamericano Juan José Arreola in the category of mini-fiction, and the president of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Estela de Carlotto, awarded Ana María Shua the Democracy in Literature Prize.
Is it possible for a mother, or a father, to accept that the own daughter is a bad person? This is the great theme of the new novel by Ana Maria Shua, Hija (“Daughter”). Natalia is a beautiful girl with a magical, destructive smile. Through her mother’s eyes, the reader will perceive certain disturbing signals. And yet how can you accuse such a small girl of selfishness, or manipulation? It is obvious that the little girl had nothing to do with the bullying of a sick classmate. Nor the death of her grandfather.
When the couple separate, the mother concentrates all her energy to prevent her daughter feel guilty unfairly. But Natalia does not feel guilty of anything, and she does not mind running over anyone who stands in her way. Interwoven with the story, Shua (herself the mother of three daughters), includes passages from her own diary, sharing her fears and desires as the novel matures.
What does one know about his own children? Are parents guilty of everything their children become? These are some of the dilemmas which this novel poses and does not intend to solve.
A brilliant family thriller.
Hija is without doubt one of the best novels by one of the best contemporary Argentinian writers.
En Línea Noticias
With deft handling, Shua makes us share the joys and anxieties of motherhood.
Shua’s novel, El peso de la tentación (The Weight of Temptation), is set in the near future and takes on the ever-expanding cult of the body-beautiful and dieting that is gripping the industrialised world.
The life of the 43 year-old main character, Marina, seems to be running smoothly. Nobody suspects that her every waking thought is focused on her next meal, turning daily life into a torment. From her childhood onwards, her relationship with food has been manipulated. On the one hand, her mother has always badgered her to eat well and plenty, but at the same time she wants to have a slim and willowy daughter. By the time she gets married, she has tried out every imaginable form of dieting and therapy. When she has to give up the diet pills for medical reasons, she loses control and puts on more than 30 kilos.
Her husband Tomás loves her all the same, but he has lost his sexual desire for her. So Marina decides to resort to a last-ditch solution: she scrapes together all of her money and goes to the private slimming institute Las Espigas, in full knowledge that she will have to spend at least three months in the institute, fully isolated from the outside world. The methods of the charismatic head of the institute – known to all only as the Professor – are somewhat questionable and do not always respect his patients’ dignity. The educational measures include clamping solitary confinement or torture with electric shocks.
As Marina’s release date approaches, the youngsters attempt a rebellion, and the power relations in the institute are set to be turned upside-down...
In this novel, Shua exposes the background to a vicious circle of hunger and obsessive slimming, to which increasing numbers of people are falling victim, and does so forcefully, with a sense of humour and a good deal of empathy. Here, hunger also stands for unfulfilled wishes, against the backdrop of the question of how free people are, or the extent to which they subjugate themselves to authority or orders.
El peso de la tentación is a precise, gracious, acerbic, entertaining novel, the latest in a series of recent texts in which literature is beginning to investigate a disorder whose history is, in many ways, only just beginning.
Patricio Lennard, Página/12
In her latest volume of microfiction, Fenómenos de circo (“Circus Freaks”), Ana María Shua toys with the fascination of dissimilar sensations like melancholy and astonishment, sadness and enchantment, playing to the readers’ most innate fears and hopes. With her characteristic large doses of irony and imagination, in stories of famous circus artists and events based on true facts Shua combines the world’s paradoxes with the preciseness of language that renders her stories so unique.
In this magnificent circus of microfiction, the author hurls round nouns into the air, juggles masterfully with verbs and lashes out with her whip until the words start leaping through rings of fire of their own accord.
Ana María Shua has written a marvelous book. Her greatest achievement is turning the reader into a privileged spectator as well.
Shua’s novels are a humorous, often sarcastic portrait of the Argentinian society. Her first novel Soy paciente (“I am a Patient” or “I am patient”) describes the daily life in hospital, the miserable standards of health care, and in a sarcastic, ironical way, illustrates the bureaucracy which forces a helpless person to be a patient patient, an exhilarating allegory [...]. A terrific first novel. (Kirkus, 1997). Two of her novels have been made into films, and some of her stories were translated into German, French, English and Dutch.
In 1991 followed the ironic portrait of the Argentinian husband, El marido argentino promedio (“The average Argentinian Husband”) which immediately became a bestseller. The Jewish emigration into the promising New World is the theme of El libro de los recuerdos (“The Book of Memories”), Shua’s third novel, written with a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation. Buenos Aires is also the scenery of Shua’s latest novel La muerte como efecto secundario (“Death as a Side-Effect”), in the year 2002 plus x: However oppressive the scenario may seem, Ana María Shua has nevertheless succeeded in writing an engaging sensitively observed novel about human relationships, about the difficulty of forgiving and the opportunity it offers. With great tenderness the author makes a first-class, vehement, literary plea for the dignity of man as inviolable, always, even in the year 2002 plus x. A shockingly topical book.
Such an unusual, great and sometimes disturbing work has not been published in our language for many years.
Buenos Aires: Emecé/Planeta 2016. 250 p.
English sample translation available
El peso de la tentación
Buenos Aires: Emecé/Planeta, 2007, 266 p.
Serbia: Laguna ● US: Nebraska Press 2012
La muerte como efecto secundario
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 1997, Emecé/Planeta 2008, 260 p.
Brazil: Globo 2004 ● France: Folies d’Encre 2013 ● Spain: Sudamericana 2002 ● US: Nebraska Press 2010
El libro de los recuerdos
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 1994, 200 p.
Italy: Poiesis 2011 ● Macedonia: Antolog 2014 ● US: New Mexico Press 1998
Buenos Aires: Losada 1980; Sudamericana 1996, Emecé/Planeta 2010, 134 p.
France: Folies d'encre 2014 ● Italy: Giunti 1997 ● US: Latin American Literary Review Press 1997
El marido argentino promedio
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 1992, 215 p.
Los amores de Laurita
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 1984, 196 p.
Film directed by Antonio Ottone 1986
Germany: Peter Hammer 1992, dtv pb 1995 ● Italy: Semilla
Short prose (selection):
Contra el tiempo
Madrid: Páginas de Espuma 2013, 240 p.
Cuidado que hay trampa. Cuentos del mundo sobre trampas y tramposos,
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 2009, 92 p.
Que tengas una vida interesante
Buenos Aires: Emecé/Planeta 2009, 298 p.
El libro de las mujeres
Buenos Aires: Alfaguara 2005, 531 p.
Sabiduría popular judía
Córdoba: Ameghino 1997, 238 p.
Brazil: Relume Dumará 2005
Viajando se conoce gente
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 1988, 142 p.
Los días de pesca
Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1981, 173 p.
Fenómenos de circo
Buenos Aires: Emecé/Planeta 2011, 190 p.
Slovenia: Malinc ● Spain: Páginas de Espuma 2011 ● US: Hanging Loose Press 2012
Cazadores de letras. Minificción reunida
Madrid: Páginas de Espuma 2009, 870 p.
Iceland: Dimma ● Taiwan: Suncolor 2012 (Incl. Hongkong & Macau) ● US: University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books 2009
Temporada de fantasmas
Madrid: Páginas de Espuma 2004, 132 p.
Argentina: Páginas de Espuma 2015 ● France: Cataplum 2010
Botánica del caos
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 2000, 245 p.
France: equi-librio 2008, Folies d’Encre 2014 ● Italy: Oèdipus 2013
Casa de geishas
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 1992, 245 p.
Mexico: Posdata 2011 ● Spain: Thule Ediciones 2007
Buenos Aires: Minotauro 1984, Alfaguara 1996, Emecé/Planeta 2006
Participation in anthologies:
Abécédaire incomplet de l'humour juif
France: Folies d’Encre 2011
For children (selection):
El país de los miedos perdidos
Buenos Aires: Capital Intelectual 2014, 32 p.
El árbol de la mujer dragón
Madrid: Anaya 2013, 152 p.
Buenos Aires: El gato de hojalata 2012, 59 p.
Una plaza un poco rara
Buenos Aires: Alfaguara 2008, 25 p.
Illustrations by Luciana Feito
Miedo de noche
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 2006, 64 p.
Caracol presta su casa
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 2003, 32 p.
Armenia: Librarius 2013 ● Chile: Random House 2008 ● US: MacGraw Hill 2007
Cuentos judíos con fantasmas y demonios
Mexico-City: Alfaguara 2003, Emecé/Planeta 2011, 152 p.
Selected for the prestigious White Raven catalogue 1995
Brazil: Shalom 1994 ● Paraguay: Alfaguara 2011
La puerta para salir del mundo
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 1992, 59 p.
Armenia: Librarius 2013 ● Brazil: Global 2001 ● Korea: Darim 2006
La fábrica del terror
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 1990, 1996, 114 p.
Korea: Baum Publishing 2005 ● Mexico: Montena 2008 ● Spain: Montena 2006
Expedición al Amazonas
Buenos Aires: Sudamericana 1988, 2003, 57 p.
Korea: Goodmother 2005