A Question of Belonging


Translated from by

Published: May 28, 2024





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Book Description

“It was a year of great discovery for me, learning about these people and their homes,” Hebe Uhart writes in the opening story of A Question of Belonging, a collection of texts that traverse Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Spain, and beyond. Discoveries sprout and flower throughout Uhart’s oeuvre, but nowhere more so than in her crónicas, Uhart’s preferred method of storytelling by the end of her life.

For Uhart, the crónica meant going outside, meeting others. It also allowed the mingling of precise, factual reportage and the slanted, symbolic narrative power of literature. Here, Uhart opens the door on all kinds of people. We meet an eccentric priest who conducts experiments down by the riverside hoping to land on a cure for cancer; a queenly (read: beautiful and relentlessly indolent) teenage girl; a cacique of the Pueblo Nación Charrúa clan, who tells her of indigenous customs and histories. She writes with characteristic slyness. Vitamins are “brown and circular, like grainy meatballs,” a racist blonde woman “must have been a fourth-tier secretary in her home country, but in La Paz she bossed people around with the vigor of a resurrected louse.”

From lapwings, road-side pedicures, and the overheard conversations of nurses and their patients, to Goethe and the work of the Bolivian director Jorge Sanjinés, Uhart reinvigorates our desire to connect with other people, to love the world, to laugh in the face of bad intentions, and to look again, more closely. In the last lines of the title story, Uhart writes, “And I left, whistling softly.” Wherever she may have gone, we are left with the wish we could follow alongside.

Snapshot portraits of everyday life from an Argentinian maestra of keen observation . . . Over a career spanning five decades, Uhart published nearly two dozen stories, novels, travelogues, and tales, all of which exude the author’s characteristically bright insight and sense of attentive amusement . . . Vilner’s thoughtful translation does much-deserved justice to Uhart’s cleareyed, boundless curiosity. An exemplary compendium of brief glimpses into the quotidian concerns of everyday South Americans.
Kirkus Reviews, starred

There is a way to capture the movements of reality, without a violent fight, that's nevertheless powerful. With her singular voice, Hebe Uhart is constantly seen, heard and present in her crónicas, and yet there's a grace in the way she occupies the space she's meditating upon; she is at once too vast and too small for autobiography. Anna Vilner's translation is eloquently luminous.
Claudia Durastanti, author of Strangers I Know

If Hebe Uhart had to be characterized in one way, it would be by her complete lack of pretension and artificiality, by her extreme discomfort when asked to carry out the rituals of the consecrated writer.
Mariana Enríquez, author of Our Share of Night and Things We Lost in the Fire

Seemingly naïve but tremendously sharp, Hebe Uhart’s vision is one that could belong to a child, but a child who has up her sleeve the reflective tools of an adult.
Alejandra Costamagna, The Paris Review

Powerful and devastating . . . Every word makes a massive impact in this slim, arresting poem.
Emily Tarr, The Southern Bookseller Review

Paul Klee famously described drawing as taking a line for a walk and the stories of Hebe Uhart share that spirit, that magic. Deceptively simple, also philosophical, Uhart's work is brilliant and companionable.
Rivka Galchen, author of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

Superb . . . Language fascinated Uhart. She avidly collected local expressions and phrases, particularly Creole ones. Her 'tender and playful' voice conjures the essence of people and places in elegantly spare descriptive detail.
Anne Foley, Booklist

This sparkling collection of short stories and travelogues by Argentinian writer Uhart brims with sharp observations and self-deprecating humor . . . Uhart shines in her nuanced portrayal of all-too-human moments.
Publishers Weekly

Read crónicas from the collection, “A Memory from My Personal Life,” “Good Manners,” and “Inheritance” in The Paris Review and “The Preparatory School” in The New Yorker