Underground River and Other Stories


Underground River and Other Stories

Inés Arredondo
Translated by Cynthia Steele
Foreword by Elena Poniatowska

Latin American Women Writers Series

130 pages


April 1996


$15.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Inés Arredondo (1928–1989) published just three slim volumes of stories over twenty-three years, yet her reputation as a great writer, “a necessary writer,” is firmly established in Mexico. Her works dwell on obsessions: erotic love, evil, purity, perversion, prostitution, tragic separation, and death. Most of her characters are involved in ill-fated searches for the Absolute through both excessively passionate and sadomasochistic relationships. Inevitably, the perfect, pure dyad of two youthful lovers is interrupted or corrupted through the interference of a third party (a rival lover or a child), aging, death, or public morality.

Set at the beginning of the twentieth century in the tropical northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, the stories collected in Underground River and Other Stories focus on female subjectivity. Arredondo’s adult male characters are often predators, depraved collectors of adolescent virgins, like the plantation owners in “The Nocturnal Butterflies” and “Shadows in the Shadows” and the dying uncle in “The Shunammite,” who is kept alive by incestuous lust. Since the young female protagonists rarely have fathers to protect them, the only thing standing between them and these lechers are older women. Perversely, these older women act as accomplices–along with the extended family and the Roman Catholic Church–in the sordid age-old traffic in women.

Underground River and Other Stories is the first appearance of Arredondo’s stories in English.


Author Bio

Cynthia Steele is an associate professor of Romance languages at the University of Washington and the author of Politics, Gender, and the Mexican Novel, 1968–1988: Beyond the Pyramid. Elena Poniatowska, who helped Steele choose these stories, is one of the most renowned of Mexico’s new generation of writers. Among her works translated into English are Frida Kahlo: The Camera Seduced, Massacre in Mexico, and Dear Diego.


“Underground River and Other Stories is nothing short of spellbinding. Mostly set in a small town in northwestern Mexico at the beginning of this century, it provides a stunning expression of the erotic perversity found in seemingly ordinary lives. . . . [Arredondo] is one of modern Mexico’s most highly regarded writers. Cynthia Steele’s able translation, the first appearance of Arredondo’s work in English, should secure a new audience for her powerful and distinctive voice.”—Jenny McPhee, New York Times Book Review

“Essential reading or anybody who can appreciate a writer’s genius for expressing passion in every shade of the lexical rainbow. The focus is anguish: a subject which touches every life.”—Leslie Cohen, Jerusalem Post

“These twelve stories, taken from Inés Arredondo’s three short-story collections and chosen shortly before her death in November 1989, are an excellent and appropriate reflection of the range and depth of her work. . . . . The introduction by Cynthia Steele and foreword by Elena Poniatowska offer helpful insights into Arredondo’s life and an assessment of her work.”—Nuala Finnegan, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

“The fruity, fecund texture of [Arredondo’s] prose, as lushly rendered by Cynthia Steele, marks her unmistakably as a writer of the tropics—one, moreover, who employs the wild and elaborate themes of erotic obsession, excessively passionate love, and depravity often associated with that region. . . . Arredondo’s strengths will doubtless secure for her a posthumous reputation throughout the Americas equal to the one she already enjoys in Mexico.”—Whitney Scott, Booklist

“This selection provides a very good introduction to [Arredondo’s] work, fascinating stories that open up a vista of decadence and passion, and relate some of the ways in which our rationality can be overruled by our desires. . . . A rare delight for short story lovers.”—British Bulletin of Publications

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