El matrimonio de los peces rojos
El matrimonio de los peces rojos

Natural Histories

El matrimonio de los peces rojos

These five dark and delicately written stories unfold in fragile worlds, where animal behaviors parallel the ways in which human beings interact with one another and react to their environments. Siamese fighting fish, cockroaches, a cat, a snake, and a strange fungus are mirrors that reflect the unconfessable aspects of human nature we keep hidden, buried. The traits and fates of these animals illuminate such deeply natural, human experiences as the cruelty born of cohabitation, the desire to reproduce or the struggle against it, and the inexplicable connection that can bind, eerily, two beings together. In her precise writing, subtle and spellbinding, Nettel renders the ordinary unsettling, and the grotesque exquisite.

In each tale Nettel creates, with tightly wound narrative tension, a space wherein her characters feel excruciatingly human, exploring how the wounds we incur in life manifest themselves within us, clandestinely, irrevocably, both unseen and overtly.



«Perhaps Guadalupe Nettel is onto something: Publish a slim collection of five flawless stories, rather than a larger, more uneven batch. An award-winning Mexican writer, Ms. Nettel creates marvelous parallels between the sorrows and follies of her human characters and the creatures they live with — whether as pets or pests. In the first story, a Paris lawyer becomes fixated on her Siamese fighting fish, a male-female pair, determined to preserve their harmonious existence as her marriage continues “its gradual course toward putrefaction.” In “War in the Trash Cans,” following a bizarre plan of attack in response to a cockroach infestation, a young girl spots one more in the corner of her room. Yet she finds an odd sense of companionship with this “orphaned cockroach, probably frightened, who didn’t know which way to turn.” Throughout, Ms. Nettel offers her keen attention and sympathy to any living thing struggling to get by» (Carmela Ciuraru, The New York Times).

«The gaze [Nettel] turns on madnesses both temperate and destructive, on manias, on deviances, is so sharp that it has us seeing straight into our own obsessions» (Xavier Houssain, Le Monde).

«Guadalupe Nettel is one of the most interesting voices of the new Mexican fiction» (J.A. Masoliver Ródenas, La Vanguardia).

«Seasoned readers will delight in this literary voice, new to the landscape of Latin American literature, a voice sophisticated as it is original» (Arcadia).

«Guadalupe Nettel reveals the subliminal beauty within beings of odd behavior and painstakingly examines the intimacies of her soul» (Magazine Littéraire).

«It has been a long time since I´ve found in the literature of my generation a world as personal and untransferable as that of Guadalupe Nettel» (Juan Gabriel Vásquez).

«The career of this young storyteller is worth keeping an eye on. A master of style, with a marvelous poetic naturalism, her ideas and manners distinguish her from what we are accustomed to in Mexican literature» (Joaquin Marco, El Cultural).

«Guadalupe Nettel’s storytelling power is majestic. With an unflinching eye, time and time again, she drives readers on an exploratory safari into the heart of human nature. Funny, touching, terrifying, horrific and/or sad-you never know what you’ll find when you tentatively set out in search of potential dangers, but one thing is abundantly clear: safe in her skilled hands, each journey holds the promise of being a life changing event» (Aaron Westerman, Typographical Era).

«Nettel’s prose is precise. Perhaps because of Pliny’s influence—his own “Naturalis Historia” is structured as an encyclopedia—her protagonists seem to be recounting the details of a science experiment. The clinical—sometimes stilted, but always tense—tone of the text suppresses the characters even further, making the stories more heartbreaking, and difficult, to read. This is a credit to Nettel as much as it is to J. T. Lichtenstein, her translator, who has captured the dark and forbidding quality of Nettel’s work without losing the characters’ sympathetic qualities. They yearn for understanding, pulling on a tender chord in readers, yet we are kept at arm’s length. It feels, in fact, like we are on the other side of a terrarium observing the lives of these creatures Nettel puts forth for our assessment» (Kristina Fazzalaro, Words Without Borders).

«It’s been a really great year for short story collections (...) One that stood out for me in particular among these very good books is Natural Histories by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by J. T. Lichtenstein. Nettel is a wonderful Mexican writer, and each of the stories in this slim collection, published by Seven Stories, takes a wry philosophical look at the relationship between people and the creatures they live with – whether a pair of pet fish or an infestation of cockroaches» (Jonathan Lee, Associate Editor of A Public Space for Electric Lit).

«As Natural Histories subtly reveals, we may not be so removed from our basic instincts—those that serve to protect us—as we might think. Nettel´s work reminds us that when we are threatened, it is in our biological makeup to fight for our own survival, be it emotional or physical. In the stories collected in Natural Histories we see ourselves, and we see that in love we are parasitic, when trapped we seek to escape, in cohabitation we become cruel, when attacked we fight tooth and claw to defend ourselves, laying aside moral judgment. In misery we seek like company; in loneliness a sense of belonging; in hostility refuge; and when injured we lick our wounds. And in our ugliness, our repulsiveness, our baseness, there is beauty, for these are the aspects of our nature that have ensured our survival» (J. T. Lichtenstein, Asymptote Journal).

SERIESNarrativas hispánicas


  • USA (Seven Stories)
  • France (Buchet & Chastel)
  • Slovenia (LUD)
  • Italy (La Nuova Frontiera)
  • Japan (IMAN)
Guadalupe Nettel

Guadalupe Nettel

Guadalupe Nettel was born in Mexico in 1973 and grew up between Mexico and France. She obtained a PhD in linguistics from the EHESS  in Paris. She is the author of the international award winning novels El huésped (2006), The body Where I was Born (2011), After the Winter (2014, Herralde Novel Prize) and Still Born (2020, finalist for the 2023 International Booker Prize). She has also published three collections of short stories: Les jours fossils (2002), Pétalos y otras historias incómodas (2008), Natural Histories (2013, Ribera del Duero Prize) and Los divagantes (2023). In 2008 she was named by the Hay Festival as one of the more promising Latin American authors.

Her work has been translated into more than seventeen languages and has appeared in publications such as Granta, The White Review, El PaísThe New York Times in Spanish,La Repubblica and La Stampa, among many others. She currently lives in Mexico City where she’s the director of the magazine Revista de la Universidad de México.


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