‘Fresh Dirt from the Grave’ is Bolivian Gothic at its Finest09 January, 2024
Shipwrecks, dive bars, possession and science… contemporary horrors and ancient terrors meet in this collection of short stories from Bolivia.
In ‘Kindred Deer’, the last of six short stories that make up Giovanna Rivero’s Fresh Dirt from the Grave, translated by Isabel Adey, the narrator finds a small mark on her husband’s body. “Smaller than a subtle fingerprint, or as if someone (not me) had sunk their finger into him in the glorious moments of an orgasm”. The story hinges on the blotch, at first something harmless, and how a mere glimpse of something unassuming grows into a sinister monstrosity; a testimony to class, immigrant life, and gruelling hardship.
Rivero is a master of observation – the details that appear so minutely in her stories that build reveal a shadowy, sinister underbelly. One of Bolivia’s most prolific contemporary writers, she weaves surreal and supernatural into life’s most shocking, terrible moments. There is no extreme unexplored: the ghost of a dead child, the abuse of a minor, taboo domestic mysteries. Fresh Direct from the Grave is not for the faint-hearted.
This is where Rivero’s mastery of short stories is appreciated – breaks are needed, and advised, to contemplate and process each tale. It’s an intense reading experience, and one that requires absolute attention: she drops hints to the reader throughout the pages, willing us to consider the darkness planted beneath the mundane. When the realisation hits; it is more sinister and heartbreaking than ever.
Fresh Dirt from the Grave is Bolivian Gothic at its finest – immersive tales that feel like old family secrets, where the truth is never fully revealed, and you’re not even sure you really want to know it.
Fresh Dirt from the Grave by Giovanna Rivero, translated by Isabel Adey, is available from Charco Press or your local independent bookshop.
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