The Wind That Lays Waste

The Wind That Lays Waste

Literature Random House, 2021
168 pages

Published by

France Métailié / Netherlands Meulenhoff / Brazil Todavía Livros / Germany Berenberg / Sweden Tranan / USA Graywolf Press / UK Charco Press / Italy Rizzoli / Japan Shorai-Sha / Turkey Verita / Indonesia Labirin Buku / Greece Klidarithmos / Norway Camino Forlag

Film rights: sold

Winner of the 2019 First Book Award (Edinburgh International Book Festival)

The Wind That Lays Waste begins in the great pause before a storm. Reverend Pearson is evangelizing across the Argentinian countryside with Leni, his teenage daughter, when their car breaks down. This act of God orfate leads them to the workshop and home of an aging mechanic called Gringo Brauer and a young boy named Tapioca.

As a long day passes, curiosity and intrigue transform into an unexpected intimacy between four people: one man who believes deeply in God, morality, and his own righteousness, and another whose life experiences have only entrenched his moral relativism and mild apathy; a quietly earnest and idealistic mechanic’s assistant, and a restless, skeptical preacher’s daughter. As tensions between these characters ebb and flow, beliefs are questioned and allegiances are tested, until finally the growing storm breaks over the plains.

Selva Almada’s exquisitely crafted debut, with its limpid and confident prose, is profound and poetic, a tactile experience of the mountain, the sun, the squat trees, the broken cars, the sweat-stained shirts, and the destroyed lives. The Wind That Lays Waste is a philosophical, beautiful, and powerfully distinctive novel.

Like Flannery O’Connor and Juan Rulfo, Almada fills her taut, eerie novel with an understanding of rural life, loneliness, temptation, and faith. BBC Culture

Argentinian fiction writer and poet Almada makes her English-language debut with a slender tale redolent of Flannery O’Connor. This novel is fueled by alcohol, religious symbolism, and doubt. The story packs a punch in its portraits of a man who exalts heaven and another who protests. Kirkus Reviews

Selva Almada burns off all the dross and gives us pure revelation, cryptic and true. Paul Harding

A mesmerizing novel, at once strange and compelling. Bonnie Jo Campbell

The Wind That Lays Waste is exquisitely crafted, providing a profound, poetic, and tangible experience of the landscape. It is told with the cinematic precision of a static road movie, like a Paris, Texas of the south. It is a distinctive novel that marks the arrival in English of an author with undeniable talent. Jury’s appraisal, Edinburgh International Book Festival’s 2019 First Book Award

A mature work, with skillful handling of the oral language and a descriptive sensoriality far from that expressive minimalism, so common in recent years. Her writing shows hardly any lyricism and it’s precisely for this reason that it holds great poetic force. Isaac Rosa, El País

The Wind That Lays Waste is one of those beautiful novels that rarely appear and must be celebrated. I recommend it not only because it is unique but also because it has everything to become a classic. The narrative landscape of Selva Almada has the perfect voice. As all great books, The Wind That Lays Waste can be read many times. As many times as readers it might have. Oliverio Coelho, La Nación Newspaper

Its originality is related to the use of language. Old realism leaks from the less expected places: where fiction goes after the present moment, the instantaneous, the tribes, the modes that have a release and expiration date. Beatriz Sarlo, Diario Perfil

(…) there is something as hypnotic and inexorable as weather happening here: you know the storm is coming, and you can’t look away. Hasan Altaf, The Paris Review

Trailer for the film “El viento que arrasa” based on Selva Almada’s novel of the same name. Direction by Paula Hernández.