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This irreverent, dark comedy coming of age story about a young artist in 1940s La Plata, Argentina made me chuckle. Don’t want to take my word for this strange posthumous translation? Then let the introduction by Mariana Enríquez persuade you.
Four women from La Plata, Argentina, are forced to suffer through a series of ordeals thanks to their impoverished, dysfunctional family—in this darkly comic literary masterpiece from Aurora Venturini, never before translated into English
At the age of eighty-five, Aurora Venturini stunned Argentine readers when her darkly funny and formally daring novel, Cousins (Las primas), won Página/12’s New Novel Award. She had already written more than forty books, but it was only then, in 2007, that she was widely recognized as a paradigm-shifting voice in Spanish-language literature.
Venturini never stopped writing in her ninety-two years, and produced an oeuvre that is mischievous and stylish, vital and mysterious, and completely original. She lived a life immersed in the literature and culture of the twentieth century: her first award was given to her in person by Jorge Luis Borges; she was friends and colleagues with Eva Perón; and when she lived in exile in Paris, she socialized with a sparkling milieu of writers and philosophers, including Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Cousins, widely regarded as Venturini’s masterpiece, is the story of four women from an impoverished, dysfunctional family in La Plata, Argentina, who are forced to suffer through a series of ordeals, including illegal abortions, miscarriages, sexual abuse, disfigurement, and murder, narrated by a daughter whose success as a painter offers her a chance to achieve economic independence and help her family as best as she can.
Neighborhood mythologies, family, female sexuality, vengeance, and social mobility through art are explored and scrutinized in the unmistakable voice of Yuna—who stares wildly at the world in which she is compelled to live—a voice unique in contemporary literature whose unconventional style can be candid, brutal, sharp, and utterly breathtaking. With the translation of Cousins into several languages for the first time, Aurora Venturini is now being discovered internationally and championed as a major voice in Latin American literature.
About the Author
AURORA VENTURINI was born in 1921 in La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina. She worked as a psychologist and Rorschach test specialist at the Institute of the Child’s Psychology and Re-education, where she befriended Eva Perón. In 1948, Jorge Luis Borges awarded her the Premio Iniciación for her book El Solitario. Persecuted for her political ideas, she had to go into exile in Paris, where she interacted with personalities of French existentialism and Violette Leduc in particular. She wrote more than thirty books. In 2007, she received the Página/12 New Novel Award for Cousins. She died in 2015, in Buenos Aires, at the age of ninety-four.
KIT MAUDE is a literary translator based in Buenos Aires. He has translated dozens of writers from Spain and Latin America for a wide variety of publishers, publications and institutions and writes reviews and literary criticism for publications in Argentina, the USA and the UK.
NPR, A Best Book of the Year
"At turns morbid and darkly funny, Venturini’s late masterpiece follows several women in La Plata, Argentina, in this story of misogyny, disability and art.” —The New York Times Book Review
"Fearless, shocking, and utterly engrossing . . . Through art, [Cousins] offers its characters the same startling freedom that Venturini offers herself." —Lily Meyer, NPR
"A portrait of the artist as a young woman, by way of David Lynch . . . It's a joy welcoming the outlandish Cousins to the stellar family of 21st-century Argentine authors available in English." —Cory Oldweiler, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
"A dark, gnomic, slapstick series of tales about a poor family living near Buenos Aires whose catalogue of terrible misfortunes and tribulations are relayed here in matter-of-fact, wholly original style . . . Cousins is on a par with the surrealist fiction of Leonora Carrington." —Catherine Taylor, The Irish Times
"Kit Maude’s translation nails this breathless voice . . . Venturini knows just how long she can afford to pursue a digression or a run-on sentence, how to bring in a sense of character expressively . . . On finishing, I had the sense that I’d just experienced something with the energy of a baroque classic." —Jonathan McAloon, Financial Times
"Extraordinary . . . Readers will find [Yuna's] unique voice—brought to life by the inimitable, ageless Venturini—unforgettable." —Elaine Elinson, Ms.
"Breezy and brutal . . . [Cousins] takes her favoured theme of dysfunctional families (Venturini studied child psychology) and magnifies it . . . confided in a wandering singsong nicely caught by Kit Maude’s translation." —Lorna Scott Fox, The Times Literary Supplement
"Extraordinary . . . Darkly funny, grotesque, often disturbing . . . A brilliant coming-of-age story that turned its eighty-five-year-old author into a literary star in her native Argentina." —Jude Burke-Lewis, Southwest Review
"A work in which art allows for both liberation and revelation." —Tobias Carroll, Words Without Borders
“Cousins is a startling document: a beautifully depraved kunstlerroman about an impoverished young girl boosted suddenly and unexpectedly into artistic fame. In turns cruel, crazed, and astoundingly lyrical, it’s a book readers of Fleur Jaeggy or Violette Leduc will love and be horrified by in equal measure.” —Kyle Francis Williams, Full Stop
"The English-language debut of the Argentine powerhouse is fast, fun, and dark. It follows a family that is down on their luck just outside of Buenos Aires. As down and out as it can feel at times, Venturini brings the slapstick as fast and often as she can." —Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful
"A brutal, visceral, and vivid story told in an unforgettable voice." —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Sordid and morbidly funny . . . Short, sharp, and startling, this will surely have readers eager to see more of Venturini’s special derangement." —Publishers Weekly
“Women are the fiery nucleus of Cousins, a hellishly tender and hilariously twisted Little Women. Venturini seems to caress the monstrosity of her invention like a dearly freakish pet, and that intimacy shines through the darkness of her writing, so full of candor and brilliance, like a creature of obsidian light.” —Pola Oloixarac, author of Mona
"Brimming with life, humor, and a vital twist of darkness, Venturini's English-language debut marks the arrival of a singular voice with a sharp, visceral approach to story. Reading Cousins is like being inside the belly of a wild, rambunctious beast, going where it goes, exhilarated no matter how perilous the journey." —Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun
"Cruel and strange and colorful—Cousins will be an immediate favorite for fans of Fleur Jaeggy and Leonora Carrington." —Catherine Lacey, author of Biography of X and Pew
“Cousins is a novel that makes you laugh out loud with its provocations and unexpected choices. Bodies are pushed to the limit in writing that gushes forth like blood. With Cousins Aurora Venturini achieved the acclaim she’d been seeking all her life and enjoyed it in characteristic fashion: baring the scars of the monstrous persona she cultivated with ironic lucidity.” —Mariana Enríquez, author of Things We Lost in the Fire
“When I first read Venturini, it was a genuine discovery, the kind that Pascal describes in Memorial. Reading, real reading, is the Stendhal syndrome, it’s like being bombarded, and that’s what Aurora Venturini is . . . Venturini’s characters fit Kafka’s premise that ‘Writing . . . is to leap out of the ranks of murderers.’” —Ariana Harwicz, author of Tender “Cousins is a unique, extreme novel of disarming originality.” —Alan Pauls, author of A History of Money
“One has no choice but to succumb to Yuna Riglos’ corrosive charm.” —Camila Sosa Villada, author of Bad Girls
“Monstrous but brilliant with hair-raising humor: to read Aurora Venturini is to be presented with a sometimes unnerving degree of originality. The narrator’s voice veers between raw intelligence and dumb ingenuity, and therein lies the genius of its style.” —Clarín