Against the Wall: Stories
Intriguing collection of magic realism features stories in which characters attempt to surmount unsettling barriers
by Alberto Roblest
English translation by Nicolás Kanellos
Publication Date: September 30, 2021
Format: Trade paperback
In the prologue to this inventive collection, the exhausted protagonist finally reaches the doors to paradise after an arduous journey, but the longed-for entrance doesn’t have a handle or keyhole and there’s no bell or intercom. He considers climbing over it, but the wall reaches to the sky. He thinks of magic words that might open it and even kicks it, to no avail. The long, difficult trip has brought him to nothing except a concrete wall surrounded by desert.
The characters in these seventeen stories find themselves with their backs against the wall, whether literally or figuratively. They run the gamut from undocumented immigrants to faded rock and soap-opera stars and even the Washington Monument. The eyes of the world focus on the blackened obelisk, which is covered in millions of insects, as government forces attempt to deal with this national emergency! Several pieces deal with people who are lost or long to go back in time. In one, Ramírez wakes up disoriented to discover he—along with untold others—is trapped in a bus terminal, unable to leave the Lost & Found area that’s piled high with thousands of suitcases, trunks, backpacks and packages.
Strange dreams pervade the nights of others. A female monster, la chingada, chases a man through a maze full of garbage and starving children, and he wonders if he should just confront his destiny. A worker falls asleep on the subway after a triple shift and dreams he’s in a pool with Death swimming towards him. Exploring topics such as immigration, corruption and police abuse, Roblest expertly depicts the loneliness and uncertainty of people struggling to survive, but who yearn for something more elusive. These moving portraits reflect the lives of those who must breach the walls—physical, social, political or cultural—blocking their paths.