In parallel and entwining stories that move from Havana to Paris to New York City, no routine, no argument for the pleasures of solitude, can withstand our most human drive to find ourselves in another, and fall in love. And no depth of emotion can protect us from love's inevitable loss.
It seems at first that After the Winter, which follows two lovers from long before they meet through the years after, departs considerably from Nettel’s earlier obsessions with animals, insects, and the horror of the body. Yet it’s still recognizably Nettelian in its crisp, straightforward sentences that build and build until profundity, or profound sentiment, sneaks up on the reader ... Mentally and physically ill bodies are everywhere in After the Winter. They are unavoidable ... It’s what places her not only within a pantheon of writers such as Gabriel García Márquez and Juan Rulfo who make death and life collide in exceedingly quotidian plots but also within a broader frame of queer literature, even though she has never claimed such a mantle ... Nettel’s tone may be clinical, but that doesn’t mean it’s detached; sometimes the only way to be intimate with one’s body is to study it, to observe it from a distance and treat it gently, as if it’s a patient ... It can be easy to fall into the trap of treating one’s body as a vessel for suffering only. But if the body contains suffering, Nettel seems to be saying...it can also give birth to contentment, joy, and arousal ... This is what lasts after reading one of her books—and what will likely make her an author whose works last well beyond the body that produces them.
Guadalupe Nettel’s novel After the Winter, her third book of fiction translated from Spanish into English, is a trenchant, subtle story about two people struggling with companionship and isolation. The novel is narrated in short, alternating chapters by the Cuban-born Claudio and the Mexican-born Cecilia, who tell us about their compulsions and relationships (or lack of relationships). Eventually their narratives intertwine, with surprising results. The novel moves with ease between New York, Paris, Havana and Oaxaca. Nettel, born in Mexico, has spent much of her life abroad, though she’s currently based in Mexico City. Her writing, in an excellent translation by Rosalind Harvey, is spare, occasionally eerie and always elegant. Her investigation of love and solitude, and what these two states can mean, is shaded by her protagonists’ unconventional behavior, contributing to the novel’s distinctive exploration of its age-old subjects and its moving interplay of humor and sadness.
After the Winter, a mesmerizing new novel from Guadalupe Nettel follows the lives of two solitary people as they slowly make their way back into the world: Claudio, a Cuban immigrant living in New York; and Cecilia, a Mexican woman pursuing postgraduate study in Paris. Told in alternating perspectives, this philosophical story juxtaposes the pleasures of solitude alongside our human need to connect and belong, resulting in a novel filled with surprising turns and revelations about just what it means to be human. At its core, After the Winter is a love story — just not the sort we’re used to ... At times a difficult read, yes. But like life itself, After the Winter is worth it.