Hotel register 2014.007
The jacket claims to collect “la totalidad de la obra narrativa en castellano de María Luisa Bombal,” which is untrue. Many later stories are missing, an especial shame because they get more haunting as they go. It starts with that thirties Spanish-American sense of both author and milieu finding their feet, an immediate talent for evoking the dreamland and some uncertainty about what to do with it. In the short tales of unhappy marriages, gender is very essential (nature-woman: society-man); the longer pieces give it more room to complicate, all to the good since an unhappy marriage is nothing if not complicated and Bombal, who once tried to shoot herself in her lover’s house and later on tried to shoot her lover, knows the facts on the ground.
In 1937, when she was writing “La Amortajada,” Borges told her that a deceased narrator was a bad idea because she would have to combine the realistic and supernatural. It works, of course; the broad view of life anchors the mystery of death. The innocent, destructive beauty in “La Historia de María Griselda” seems to come out of a Kleist tale, though without the Kleist sentence structure. Bombal’s sentences and paragraphs are short, powered by adjectives, sometimes ending three phrases in a row with the same adjective; this works too. (Los cipreses se recortaban inmóviles sobre un cielo azul; el estanque era una lámina de metal azul; la casa alargaba una sombra aterciopelada y azul.) On the misadventures of a submarine pirate ship: “Furiosos pulpos abrazábanse mansamente a sus mástiles, como para guiarlo…”
In sum, it’s probably worth trying to track down those uncollected stories.