Give me a list of the 100 best/greatest/most important novels of all time, and I’ll have missed at least half. No matter how much you badger me, I am not wading into War and Peace this summer. But novellas! Oh, novellas are like mint juleps on an August afternoon. I’ve slurped up my fair share of the greatest: Heart of Darkness, Death in Venice, On Chesil Beach, The Metamorphosis, Reflections in a Golden Eye. The publishers of Antonio Muñoz Molina pointedly call In Her Absence a novel, but I’m not fooled. The word count comes in at a little over 25,000, and like all the best novellas, its brevity only adds to its intensity.
In Molina’s creation, the protagonist attempts to solve the mystery of his wife’s disappearance. That is, if she’s missing at all; there is someone identical who claims to be his wife standing in the kitchen. Half-mystery, half-romance, In Her Absence is like no novella (or novel for that matter) that I know of in English. Other Press published Esther Allen’s translation in 2006.
Bio: Erica Wright is the poetry editor at Guernica. Her interview with John Ashbery, “Houses at Night”:http://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/507/houses_at_night_1/, appeared in Guernica’s February 2008 issue. Read her last recommendation “here”:http://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1151/staff_pick_erica_wright_1/.