Finalist, National Book Awards 2023 for Translated Literature

ISBN 9781642861228
World Editions
Pilar Quintana

Pilar Quintana is a Colombian author. In 2007, Hay Festival selected her as one of the most promising young authors of Latin America. Her previous novel, The Bitch, won an English PEN Translates award and was a Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Translated Literature. More about this author >

Translator photo of Lisa Dillman. (Photo credit: April Hunt)
Lisa Dillman

Lisa Dillman lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where she translates Spanish, Catalan, and Latin American writers and teaches in the department of Spanish and Portuguese at Emory University. More about this author >

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Translated from the Spanish

From the publisher:

Claudia is an impressionable 8-year-old girl, trying to understand the world through the eyes of the adults around her. But her hardworking father hardly speaks a word, while her unhappy mother spends her days reading celebrity lifestyle magazines, tending to her enormous collection of plants, and filling Claudia’s head with stories about women who end their lives in tragic ways. Then an interloper arrives, disturbing the delicate balance of family life, and Claudia’s world starts falling apart. In this strikingly vivid portrait of Cali, Colombia, Claudia’s acute observations remind us that children are capable of discerning extremely complex realities even if they cannot fully understand them. In Abyss, Quintana leads us brilliantly into the lonely heart of the child we have all once been, driven by fear of abandonment.

Judges Citation

A bourgeois apartment becomes a lush green jungle in this vivid, restrained story of the generational burdens of motherhood, as told by Claudia, a resilient eight-year-old named after—who else?—her mother. The treacherous domestic terrain of Abyss offers the keen-eyed Claudia an early education in adult selfishness and betrayal, and Pilar Quintana’s subtle, affecting evocation of that terrain—which loses nothing in Lisa Dillman’s masterful English translation—is a triumph of perception and representation.


Pilar Quintana and Lisa Dillman at the 2023 National Book Awards Finalist Reading