“Fever Dream”

Fever Dream

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Samanta Schweblin’s 2017 novel, translated the same year by Megan McDowell. I read a first edition Riverhead Books hardcover from the library.

Buy the Book

5 out of 5 stars.

Times Read: 1

The Plot:

Amanda, dying at a medical center, speaks with David, a young, mysterious boy.

A book called Fever Dream could easily descend into confusing surrealistic madness, but Schweblin has built a fascinating tale into the scaffolding of deathbed conversation. I always understood, visually, what was occurring even when the characters were shrouded in mystery.

Fever Dream is the most effectively terrifying and unsettling piece of fiction I’ve ever read. Every moment is charged with fear. Something terrible is coming. Something murderous, poisonous, or tragic. Doom is approaching but from where?

Credit to Megan McDowell, as well. Preserving tension, clarity, and author voice while translating is an impressive feat.


[1] Reference: The opening quote is by Jesse Ball, from The Curfew.

Jesse Ball (b.1978) is an American novelist and poet. His novel The Curfew was published in 2011. Amazon describes is as “an astounding portrait of fierce love within a world of random violence.”

[2]

But I’m going to die in a few hours. That’s going to happen, isn’t it? It’s strange how calm I am. Because even though you haven’t told me, I know. And still, it’s an impossible thing to tell yourself.

(p.5)

[3] References:

I invited her over for mate the next morning.

(p.6)

 

He dumps the used yerba into the sink.

(p.175-76)

 

Mate is a traditional drink in some countries in South America, especially in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, and Brazil. The drink, which contains mateine (an analog of caffeine), is made by an infusion of dried leaves of yerba mate. It is usually served in a hollow calabash gourd with a “Bombilla”, a special metallic drinking straw. Yerba mate leaves are dried, chopped, and ground into a powder called yerba.

[4] Reference:

“[The horses had] been sold and were running races – still do – at Palermo and San Isidro.”

(p.12)

 

The Hiprodromo de San Isidro is a horse racing track located in San Isidro, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Is it one of Argentina’s most important race courses.

[5]

“There’s only so much searching you can do, either a horse is there or it’s not.”

(p.13-14)

[6]

It’s just that I can’t believe a story like that. But at what point in the story is it appropriate to get angry?

(p.29)

[7]

I’m just tired, that’s what I tell myself, and sometimes I’m afraid when I think that everyday problems might be a little more terrible for me than for other people.

(p.42)

[8] Dread looms so heavily through every moment, especially with this repeated motif:

“Sooner or later something bad is going to happen,” my mother would say. “And when it happens I want to have you close.”

Your mother is not important.

(p.56)

 

My mother always said something bad would happen. My mother was sure that sooner or later something bad would happen.

(p.75-76)

[9] I was going to put a scene from page 73-74 here, but I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just tell you, it scared the hell out of me. Read this book.

[10]

In spite of the awkwardness I congratulate myself for having come to see her.

But it’s not a good idea.

It’s already done.

This is not good at all.

(p.82)

[11]

“Strange can be quite normal. Strange can just be the phrase ‘That is not important’ as an answer for everything.”

(p.96)

[12]

“David was motionless, his back to me, for about two minutes. That’s a long time, Amanda.”

(p.101)

[13]

I buried them. Burying them isn’t the same as killing.

(p.103)

[14]

My husband slams his hands down on the table, contained but effective.

(p.178)


Schweblin is in total control of her story. It is exactly as long as it should be; no more, no less. You can read Fever Dream in a couple of hours and I recommend doing it in one sitting/day to experience the full effect. I’m not sure if the book would reveal more layers or lose its power on a second reading, but I know I already want to read it again.

Next week, going back to Ogawa for her collection of novellas, The Diving Pool.

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