From one of Argentina's greatest contemporary storytellers, The Scent of Buenos Aires gathers twenty-five of Hebe Uhart's most remarkable and incandescent short stories in English for the first time.
The Scent of Buenos Aires offers the first book-length English translation of Uhart's work, drawing together her best vignettes of quotidian life: moments at the zoo, the hair salon, or a cacophonous homeowners association meeting. She writes in unconventional, understated syntax, constructing a delightfully specific perspective on life in South America. These stories are marked by sharp humor and wit: discreet and subtle, yet filled with eccentric and insightful characters. Uhart's narrators pose endearing questions about their lives and environments - one asks "Bees - do you know how industrious they are?" while another inquires, "Are we perhaps going to hell in a hand basket?"
About the Author
Born in 1936 in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Hebe Uhart is one of Argentina's most celebrated modern writers. She published two novels, Camilo asciende (1987) and Mudanzas (1995), but is better known for her short stories, where she explores the lives of ordinary characters in small Argentine towns. Her Collected Stories won the Buenos Aires Book Fair Prize (2010), and she received Argentina's National Endowment of the Arts Prize (2015) for her overall oeuvre, as well as the Manuel Rojas Ibero-American Narrative Prize (2017). About the translator: Maureen Shaughnessy's translations from Spanish include works by Hebe Uhart, Nora Lange, Margarita García Robayo, and Luis Nuño. She has also translated Guadalupe Urbina's Maya folktales, as well as several Cañari legends. Shaughnessy's translations have been published by Words Without Borders, World Literature Today, The Brooklyn Rail, and Asymptote. She lives in Bariloche, Argentina.
Longlisted for the PEN Translation Prize
"These stories rarely adhere to conventional plots, but as mood pieces they're effective glimpses into the peculiarities of Uhart's characters, who crave order but usually concede that the world's default mode is disarray...A welcome (if, alas, posthumous) introduction to a sui generis writer." — Kirkus Reviews
"There’s a wonderfully off-kilter humanity to Uhart’s writing that readers are sure to respond to. This collection feels like a deserved celebration of a writer’s career." — Publishers Weekly
"A remarkable introduction to one of the unsung women writers of Argentine letters." — Library Journal
"Immersing oneself in this collection – her first book to be translated into English, by Maureen Shaughnessy – is indeed like travelling, as we visit one character’s world and then another’s, inhabiting the revealing mundanities of each life. Little happens in terms of plot; rather, each story is an understated exercise in conjuring a whole existence through a revealing thought or gesture . . . the reader returns from her travels feeling refreshingly unbalanced." – Emily Rhodes, The Guardian
"The Scent of Buenos Aires is concerned with the social and communal, but with a wink and a nudge toward the ridiculous habits of people. Uhart suspects, loves, and laughs at each of her characters in equal measure because she knows that, when it comes to the array of human emotion and motivation, “one person’s freedom ends where another’s begins.”" — Foreword Reviews
"The stories... are acutely observed, but as if by a foreigner or a newcomer with no previous experience of what is being described; they’re told with a deceptive simplicity that draws the reader into deep labyrinths of everyday life." —Esther Allen, Words Without Borders
"(Uhart's stories) steadily, unobtrusively oxygenate the world around them ... Uhart helped shape a generation of writers in Argentina as both a teacher and a writer, her influence both diffuse and impossible to ignore ... Shaughnessy has, in turn, helped us hear English as Uhart might have heard it, displaying a remarkable prowess ... It is because we can now hold these stories in our hands that her insights serve as a second set of eyes, her perspective shaping ours as we look at the world around us." — Music & Literature
"Cultivating a sense of respect for (and kinship with) other levels of sentience, Uhart’s manner of acknowledging the interconnectedness of consciousness allows us to see Buenos Aires—any place, really—as its own organism, composed of endless living, breathing parts. Further, Uhart takes us into the internal worlds of these beings, shining light on both the typical and extraordinary ways we perceive our environment and ourselves." — Asymptote
"One of Argentina's finest and most beloved authors, Uhart has managed to escape the attention of a wider global readership for some time ... Uhart's stories are concise and filled with both dry and conversational wit and flashes of poignant insight. Uhart is a slice-of-life writer, and the breadth of those slices is almost as impressive as their deceptive depth." — Thrillist
"Hebe approached her subjects from an astonished and oblique angle that, at first, might appear naive. Not so. Her short stories feature protagonists rarely seen in Argentine literature [...] Always rescuing the voices that no one pays attention to, yet not at all in a pompous way, for, if there was one thing that Hebe Uhart never wanted to do, it was to fall into the common position of giving voice to the voiceless and other slogans that she would consider idiotic." — from "Perfect Pitch" by Mariana Enriquez, author of Things We Lost in the Fire, in Página/12
"I do not like authors who are too satisfied. The best tradition of Argentinean literature was built in these vacillations: the uncertain narrator of Borges or of Hebe Uhart, that idea that meaning is always being constructed, and that opposes other traditions in which the narrator is sure of the order of things." - Ricardo Piglia
"Hebe Uhart is the best contemporary Argentinean storyteller." - Rodolfo Enrique Fogwill
"[In Uhart's writing] from simplicity one penetrates depths and labyrinths where you can only advance if you participate in the magic of that new world...It neither clarifies nor completes a known reality. It reveals, or rather, it is a unique, distinct reality." - Haroldo Conti
"Hebe is the best and the strangest. After decades of writing and publishing narrations, Hebe became an author that dominated a central genre for the Argentine tradition: the short story. However, this has the geographic particularity of being transnational: when we think about stories in Argentina we think about literature created in the Río de la Plata, between Argentina and Uruguay. And that was one of the strongest nuclei in Hebe's literary identity, by which it was not a national but an inherently Río de la Plata literature." - Inés Acevedo
"Hebe's texts (her fiction as well as her chronicles) played with the world in a manner that didn't fully coincide with Victor Shklovski's definition of defamiliarization, that disposition of finding the strange and the unfamiliar within the quotidian. This is perhaps because the quotidian perception of Hebe Uhart in the world was, in itself, lacking automatization from the beginning, being always full of amazement, of a cultivated sense of bewilderment. That register was then translated to her texts through a writing that was ingeniously natural, with a simplicity that was only simulated." - Martin Kohan
"The world of Hebe Uhart, which so intensely appears in her stories, is abundant, collective and absolutely personal ... She as given Argentine Literature countless unforgettable, exciting characters that establish, when talking or acting, when having certain feelings over others, a way of existing, of resisting, of withstanding." - Elvio E. Gandolfo