In Claudia Cabrera Espinosa’s latest book of short stories, The exiled (Fund for Economic Culture, 2023), she pushes her characters beyond the norms of their everyday existence. Espinosa’s daring narrative style encourages the characters to take risks and encounter extraordinary circumstances. The 12 stories featured in this collection all depict protagonists stepping out of their comfort zones to confront or experience remarkable realities.
Espinosa believes that women have the freedom to write about any topic they desire. She feels that previously, self-censorship might have held some back. She asserts,
We can now write about any topic. Before, perhaps there was some self-censorship. Now, I feel like we can write about anything and from whatever perspective we want. It is a literature that may not be liked; However, we are not limited.
The author also advises against writing in fear, as it can restrict the text’s potential. She explains,
Do not write with fear, because, in the end, doing so is having a brake that can be limiting for the text. On the other hand, if we are not afraid, for example, of who is going to read us, and if they are going to judge us, we can give free rein to other impulses and instincts.
While the tales in The exiled do not necessarily end happily, they do conclude in a way that leaves the reader feeling disturbed or distressed. Espinosa did not intentionally aim to make them this way but acknowledges that it seems to be becoming her style. She adds,
I didn’t write each story thinking it would be disturbing; However, it seems to be becoming my style. The narratives in The exiled are described as
a little psychological and more urban.
Aside from writing short stories, Espinosa has also penned novels and is a respected academic in the field. She is a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where she teaches a seminar on fantastic literature. Furthermore, as a postdoctoral researcher at El Colegio de México, she is currently studying the works of Emilia Pardo Bazán, a pioneering feminist in Spain.
Although Espinosa has a keen interest in fantastic literature, her stories are not always
truly fantastic. However, a few of the tales in The exiled incorporate supernatural elements, such as
Letters to the administration and
unfair competition. These stories explore the concept of the double, a theme recurrent in the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and the novels of Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Her academic pursuits have also led Espinosa to study the works of authors such as Juan Marsé, José María Merino, and Amparo Dávila.
When asked about the challenges of writing short stories, Espinosa explains that each one presents a unique challenge that demands an original narrative. She adds,
I wrote a novel during the pandemic. It was the first time I had time to develop something long-term. It is very different from the story. Every day, when you sit down to work, you know that you stayed at a certain point that serves as a starting point for the next chapter. In the story, no; It is more demanding. You have to start from scratch: the situation, the setting, the narrative person. The story requires more attention from the reader, perhaps because it is somewhat condensed, with more tension.
Espinoza also notes that the short story genre has seen a resurgence in the Spanish-speaking world, with many female authors contributing to this revival. She says,
There are many women storytellers, which makes this genre position itself again.
On her own writing style, Espinosa remarks that she tends to be very concise. She says,
Maybe I try to develop an economy of language so that the story I want to tell is very specific, with a certain number of characters, not too many, so that the reader can carefully follow what is being told. That the emotion generated is also present, without suddenly having moments like in the novel, perhaps, of more narrative ups and downs.
When asked about her sources of inspiration, Espinosa reveals that she is constantly on the lookout for potential stories. She shares,
In general, writers are quite story hunters. We are always on the lookout, that’s why my friends know that everything they tell me can become a story.
Finally, Espinosa speaks about the different perspectives used in her book. The narratives are told from the viewpoint of a child, a man, and a young woman. On this, she reflects,
Writers have a bit of a multiple personality. We must try to embody within each character to reproduce what we imagine what they think, to be as close as possible to how they could see reality.