No one can be closer to another than a mother to her unborn child. No one, that is, except unborn twins jostling for space in the womb. In this concise and inventive novel, a twin brother and sister vie for attention from the reader much as they competed for room before their birth. Their prenatal intimacy and jealousy interlace until they can hardly recognize who is who.
The chaos originating at the very moment of the twins’ conception gains dramatic proportions when they enter the world male and female. From the moment of their births, everything changes. The lives of the family members begin to unwind as they are each consumed by illness, obsession, and insanity. The inevitable and violent dissolution of the family becomes a metaphor in which Diamela Eltit explores the social crises in Chile during the military dictatorship of General Cesare Augusto Pinochet.
Born in Santiago, Chile, in 1949, Diamela Eltit now makes her home in Mexico as Chile’s cultural attaché. The Fourth World, first published in 1988, is her third novel. While other Chilean writers fled the military dictatorship that began in 1973, Eltit found no alternative but to join resistance groups and actively protest the government until democracy was restored in 1989. In the intervening years she learned the dual importance of concealment and discovery in language and the vital connections among story, politics, and personal survival.
Dick Gerdes, a professor of Spanish at the University of New Mexico, is a Fulbright fellow and an associate editor of Hispania. His first book-length translation was Alfredo Echenique’s A World for Julius.
1996 Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award in Translation, sponsored by the Texas Institute of Letters, winner