La ciudad en que no estás: Cuentos reunidos. Margarita Saona. Lima: Cocodrilo Ediciones, 2021.
Margarita Saona’s short story collection shows us an overview of temporal explorations. While reading it, we can perceive a free use of narrative techniques and the many challenges implied in this act of writing. In this regard, it is possible to identify notable short stories and texts that express a voice that only sees fit to murmur confessions. We find 26 long-form narrations that fight to synthesize emotions and leave testimony of impactful events in memory, of absence and how it manifests itself, without much in the way of plot beyond the past’s footprints. Furthermore, we read 26 micro-fictions in which the reader can note, among other topics, important reflections on the act of writing and its implications.
Suppose we try to articulate Saona’s pursuits. In this case, the book’s first text announces to us how the word is the only instrument that, despite everything, can (in its impossibility) bring us back to the lover, insisting upon his presence, talking about all the meanings that can occupy his void. The word portrays time that does not look cruel. It is just time accumulating in urban spaces, in the comings-and-goings of a consciousness that tries to locate or re-locates itself into the many meanings of experiences and objects, which leave marks. Photographs, pendants, or animal presences become signals to be deciphered, which the readers must accept in this unstoppable tide. The word is the author’s fulcrum for demonstrating that the places where one arrives are real places where we can settle in a certain way. In many ways, the task of writers is not visualized, according to Borges, as a conscious dream, but as an event in which the dreamlike invades pages and underlines the fragility and ambiguity of what cannot be invoked. This happens in “The Witch’s Apprentice,” a text in which the power of spells can turn against their creator, proving that love will always be a maze from which nobody can escape.
Almost all the narrations are under the sign of absence or loss, and here, the word is the only source of help. But voices chain this word down and show us the perplexity of life and its transformations. Perhap this is the great merit of those who assume narration should not be driven by any more than a doubled reality and, even more, by multiplications, as occurs in “Disagreements,” a text in which the possibility of finding something is impossible. Recognizing that romantic cinema has exploited these situations, Saona turns these questions around to arrive at a point at which sickness and near-death relativize our identity. The being is a continuous sequence of opinions that can never be stabilized and, probably, will be unnecessary to gain or offer new perspectives on life. We can identify this situation in texts such as “Fallen Angels,” in which a question resounds: “Who is telling this story?” This is one of the most significant queries in the book because the painful rhythm of existence paralyzes the narrative speaker. Without a doubt, the question mentioned above continues in “The Same” or “An Image of Two Bodies.” The doubles are not only two; they are many entities subjected to time; they know that vital decadence and fugacity are principal characteristics. This is an achievement that could be the most sincere route by which to produce a great impact in the current of Peruvian narrative.
This book displays feminine perceptions that seek to incarnate in memory, in lovers, in the city, through an extreme lamentation we might summarize in the word “recalling.” Most of the texts are trying to recover for their protagonist a never-cohesive life, one more or many times. In sum, Margarita Saona takes up words in such a way that she translates the freedom of emotions between consonance and dissonance, without being afraid of the shame of imperfection or weakness, as we can see in “Die By the Short Story”: “And, indeed, there are the others, those who will read this short story and think they recognise me in it (and they will be right). And it will not make any sense if I tell them fictional artifacts, freedom of expression, the cat’s pussy, because readers know, I know they know, because I am one of them”.