Cortezs short story, The Year of the Self, centers on a protagonist struggling to recover from a breakup. Its a familiar premise, but in this case, executed with a fresh vision and voice, as the story resists being driven by causality. Instead, its told in impressionistic fragments. We watch the narrator push through the mundanity of everyday life while trying to find ways to shirk the weight of her grief. As the story progresses, the narrator ascribes a kind of existential profundity to the most everyday misfortuneswhether she's stepping in dog shit or getting a yeast infection. The result is a story more wry and sparkling than melancholy.
Agualusas novels and stories hover over Angolan terrain riddled with the shrapnel of colonial violence, so this new collection's title, A Practical Guide to Levitation (Archipelago Books 2023), fits. The prose advances plot in light, lyrical tangents but keeps the full weight of historical trauma as an omnipresent fog. The refrain in this story, that Abacar's sleep is "deep and dreamless," suggests that the dream has escaped the character and now pervades the story, animating the landscape. Agualusa is one of the few truly hypnotizing writers working today.