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07Apr

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez review – unsettling tales

A gripping collection that draws on the Argentinian military dictatorship to mix daylight horrors with supernatural shocks

In 1927 MR James, author of some of the most indelible ghost stories ever written, gave a lesson in how to do it: “Let us, then, be introduced to the players in a placid way; let us see them going about their ordinary business, undisturbed by forebodings, pleased with their surroundings, and into this calm environment let the ominous thing put out its head, unobtrusively at first, and then more insistently, until it holds the stage.”

Mariana Enríquez has written various stories that fit just this pattern, but five pages in to the International Booker prize-longlisted The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, as a woman attempts to strangle the undead corpse of a three-month-old baby – her great aunt, as it happens – it struck me that when you’re writing fiction that wants to disturb and unsettle its readers, breaking the rules can be just as productive as following them.

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