La Puerta Entreabierta
(The Half-Open Door)
Fernanda Kubbs (Cristina Fernandez Cubas)
Tusquets, 2013, 221 pg
La Puerta Entreabierta (The Half-Open Door) is Cristina Fernandez Cubas’ latest book and finds her assuming a pen name, Fernanda Kubbs, to create a much more fantastical novel that celebrates famous stories of mystery while creating her own. Cubas’s work has always dealt with the fantastic, but La in Puerta Entreabierta the fantastical becomes almost the primary focus of the novel making the mysterious less an element of suspense, but exploration. Avid readers of her work, as I am, will find the book, dare I say it, a little lighter than some of her other work. Her writing style is still as good as ever and it is a pleasure to read some one of her talent write was is, for all intents and purposes, an intelligent fable.
The story follows Isa a human interest story reporter for a newspaper. She’s not particularly good and doesn’t know how to dress well either, wearing bermuda shorts to a reprimand by her boss. Her assignment is to write an article on fortune tellers. She finds a stereotypical fortuneteller dressed as gypsy and using a crystal ball. Sometime during the reading she is transported into the crystal and is trapped inside. The fortuneteller is a fraud and has no idea how she ended up in the ball. Thus begins Isa’s journey in the sphere, landing ultimately in the shop of an antiquarian dealer who on learning of her predicament tries to helper escape from the sphere.
Interspersed between Isa’s narrative are stories, told as examples, of famous frauds who fooled people with illusions and tricks. Readers of Poe might be familiar with Von Kempelen and his chess playing machine. Here, as in the other stories, she reworks the stories, playing with the legends of the frauds, both showing them as ridiculous and compelling, as if there is something in the stories that is true. It is a typical move for her, but in this book it is more playful and the stories remain what they have long been: fables.
What makes the book enjoyable are two things: the interaction between Isa and her protector; and Cubas’ ability to make what might otherwise be a light story something that shines with her strong language. Moreover, Cubas is a clever writer and her decision to leave the story open ended makes this detour into the magical quite interesting. While this will not be my favorite work of hers (hence the short review), I enjoyed it for what it is and given that it is Cubas it is much better that most books.