Here at the end of a really excellent Women in Translation Month, we are delighted to announce the next title from Structo Press: Wolfskin by Lara Moreno, translated from the Spanish by Katie Whittemore.
Coming in January 2022, this intimate and unflinching novel tells the story of two women, sisters, as they face up to the current reality of their lives as well as their childhood and the black holes of their past. It is a timely and timeless look at questions of family, power, and sexuality.
Wolfskin will be the second book in translation from Structo Press, following the Republic of Consciousness Prize-nominated El Llano in flames by Juan Rulfo, translated from the Spanish by Stephen Beechinor.
Excerpt from Wolfskin below!
I remember it well. My sister and I clinging to the balcony railing, watching the dumpsters on the sidewalk just in front of the house. I could see over the railing, but my sister, who was quite little then, looked through the gap between the bar and the panel. I remember that it was in the afternoon, that it was sunny. I don’t know why, but in childhood the sun doesn’t seem as punishing. I’m sure it was hell on the balcony at that time of day and that our heads were roasting, but all that mattered was that we had to stay there, that we couldn’t move until it happened. I remember the sun, but not the heat. This is what had to happen: we were to wait until someone took several of the toys next to the dumpster. They were on the sidewalk side so that passers-by could see they were still in good shape and usable. They could still be used, and they were in good shape. They were supposedly our favourite dolls.
My sister and I had been playing earlier that afternoon. I don’t remember what we were doing, but we weren’t in the playroom, we were on the rug in the living room, and there were toys scattered all over the floor. We started a fuss over something, we both wanted the same toy, and maybe, just maybe, one of us pulled the other’s hair, but I could be exaggerating. We might have growled and squealed—sometimes we behaved like little animals. At that moment, my father came home and saw us. It’s completely natural for siblings to fight, but my father couldn’t stand it. It was simply beyond him, as were other such natural things. From up above he separated us, brusquely, and asked what had happened. I suppose we sputtered something about the toys. The toys were to blame, not the simple fact of our coexistence. One wanted what the other had, something like that. I don’t remember the details. But I do remember exactly what happened next.
My father said: Go get your favourite dolls and bring them here. You’re going to put them next to the dumpster and then you’re going to stay on the balcony until someone comes and takes them. You are not to move until someone has claimed your toys.
We obeyed. We went to the playroom. My heart was clenched like a fist and I cried thick tears. I couldn’t stop thinking about my favourite doll of the moment. She was going to be taken from me; someone was going to carry her off from right under my nose. She was still new, a gift from a friend of my parents. She had blonde hair and bendable arms and legs and a bicycle she could sit on and pedal if I moved her. I could pose her wire limbs in any position and she was so entertaining with her bright-coloured clothes and little elfish face. I loved her. I looked for her in the playroom and took her in my hands. I wanted to pass out, but a young child doesn’t know that feeling, doesn’t even know how to faint, and so all I sensed was the trembling in my arms and legs and how frightened I was. My behaviour was straightforward, predictable. Do this and suffer for it, and so I did. Subtext didn’t exist for me as a little girl.
My sister’s behaviour, however, was staggering. Even now, I’m humbled by the memory and find it hard to believe. Even now, I struggle to understand how that sharp wasp-brain worked, that strange little bird: intelligent, calm, drama-free. She was very small. I don’t know how old we were at the time, but her body was thin, and her hair shone when she ran past me, flashing, leaving me dazzled and unsettled. I cried and hiccupped, clutched my blonde bicyclist. But not my sister. She entered the playroom, determined, without the slightest hint of suffering. Immersed in my own agony, I did stop briefly to think about her, about my little sister who at any moment would recognise the tragedy about to befall us. As I watched her climb up on a chair to reach one of the wide shelves of the bookcase, I felt pain, pain for her and pain for me, separate pain, because she was younger and was going to suffer, too. On tiptoe, she sped through her search of the dolls and the boxes, and from the bottom of one pulled out her “favourite doll”. This turned out to be a fairly large rubber cat, passing for one of the characters from The Aristocats. We never played with it. It came to us in a box of toys passed down from another child and—this I swear—we had never as much as touched it, not once. I didn’t even remember that it existed. A completely meaningless object. I stopped crying abruptly when I saw my sister serenely leave the room and go to where my father was waiting. I followed, carrying my beloved new doll. She was serious and calm. I was forlorn. We brought the toys outside and set them next to the dumpster. Then we went back inside to watch from the balcony.