The Scent of Buenos Aires


Translated from by



ISBN: 9781939810342

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Book Description

Hebe Uhart’s stories sneak up on you. Refreshingly approachable, they are punctuated by street talk and saturated with a cryptic wit that recalls Lydia Davis. In The Scent of Buenos Aires, Uhart renders moments at the zoo, the hair salon, or a homeowners association meeting with delightfully eccentric insight. These stories cast an unusual, intimate light on the inner lives of plants, animals, and humans, magnifying the minute, everyday quirks of Argentina’s small towns: a cat curls around his owner to humor him, a classroom of children sway like trees when their teacher turns her back. Smiling to herself, Uhart reveals the infinite ways we show ourselves to one another.


A remarkable traveler and observer, Uhart pays close attention to the way people speak, how they move, and how they remain still. Considered to be one of the greatest contemporary Argentine writers, Uhart won the Manuel Rojas Iberian-American Award for literature in 2017. The Scent of Buenos Aires is the first collection of Uhart’s to be published in English, and Maureen Shaughnessy’s translation perfectly captures Uhart’s extraordinary world, one dappled with iridescent ivy and the small epiphanies of ordinary souls.

Uhart’s stories are written in a voice that’s frank, almost conversational, and occasionally humorous, but they land with surprising gravitas ... 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

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.

For Hebe Uhart, “looking” was the most authentic way of writing, as if her arrested and thoughtful gaze over characters was carried into the words that formed their stories
Edwin Madrid

Reading Hebe Uhart we laugh a lot, although we are never sure if what we’ve read is just a joke, because in her words there is also, above all, precision and wisdom...Hebe Uhart’s books are full of these small revelations, which are born of a religious attention to detail and an ear that clearly perceives the ups and downs of language.

A truly beautiful translation of one of the writers I admire the most. After reading Hebe Uhart we don’t have the impression of having closed a book: the stories and words echo the way they do when we come home after spending long hours conversing with a stranger, and discovering a new and valuable complicity.
Alejandro Zambra

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.
Mariana Enriquez, (translated by Robert Croll) Página/12

Hebe Uhart’s characters are made of an almost palpable material. They are alive, and they seem to emerge from the page to tell us, “This one here is me, that one over there could be you."

How we move, how we walk, how we keep quiet: that is what Uhart observes in each of us. But also how we pause, how we sneeze, what onomatopoeias we use, how our being is revealed through everyday gestures that at times can contradict the ideas we claim to hold. It’s through these minute observations, and her repudiation of generalities, that the writer unfurls her tentacles to construct her characters.

Alejandra Costamagna, The Paris Review

Hebe is the best and the strangest. After decades of writing and publishing, 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 rioplatense literature.

Inés Acevedo, La Agenda

The greatest contemporary Argentine writer.

Rodolfo Enrique Fogwill

Hebe's texts (her fiction as well as her chronicles) played with the world in a manner that didn't fully coincide with Viktor Shklovsky’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.

Martín Kohan, Perfil

Her writing is so simple that it sometimes seems like it’s meant for children. But from simplicity to simplicity her reader penetrates into depths and labyrinths that one can only access when participating in the magic of a new world... It reveals a unique reality, or the fact that she, herself, is a unique and different reality.

Haroldo Conti

These thirty-eight short stories function like a panopticon, each dipping into one person’s purview and leaving after capturing the briefest impression. Poised somewhere between narrative and sense memory, Uhart’s lens looks into sundry lives and renders the act of surveillance both venal and holy… Shaughnessy’s translation is seamless at it transfers Uhart’s material into colloquial English, making it easy to fall into the rhythms of the characters’ lives and the coded emotions that idioms encapsulate.
Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers, Foreword Reviews

The world of Hebe Uhart, which so intensely appears in her stories, is abundant, collective and absolutely personal ... She has 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, Eterna Cadencia

Her short stories and vignettes from daily life shimmer with truth...Fans of writers from Alice Munro to William Trevor will find Uhart's work, whenever it appears in English, a delight.

Samuel Rutter, The Arkansas International

Hebe Uhart is one of Argentina's finest storytellers.

Asymptote Journal

Poised somewhere between narrative and sense memory, Uhart’s lens looks into sundry lives and renders the act of surveillance both venal and holy.

Foreword Reviews

  • Read this profile in Spanish by writers Mariana Enríquez and Eduardo Carrera on Hebe Uhart, her literary career, and her history in the world of letters.
  • Revisit Hebe’s words in her 2017 speech after winning the Manuel Rojas Prize.
  • Check out a translation of Guiding the Ivy by Hebe Uhart.