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Natural Histories: Stories

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  218 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Siamese fighting fish, cockroaches, cats, a snake, and a strange fungus all serve here as mirrors that reflect the unconfessable aspects of human nature buried within us. The traits and fates of these animals illuminate such deeply natural, human experiences as the cruelty born of cohabitation, the desire to reproduce and the impulse not to, and the inexplicable connection ...more
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published June 10th 2014 by Seven Stories Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  218 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So wonderful. Such a satisfying, compelling read. This book speaks to you as a person sitting across the table would. With sincerity, simplicity, and shared empathy. The stores are complete in themselves and do not leave you the limbo-like sensation many others of this literary style often do.

The theme of this book is deceptively simple and yet terribly fascinating. The also looks at the Natural Histories of living organisms; from cats to snakes to even fungi and draws a parallel in the lives o
Jun 16, 2014 rated it liked it
named to the distinguished bogotá39 list of promising young latin american writers (in excellent company amongst the likes of junot díaz, andrés neuman, daniel alarcón, eduardo halfon, alejandro zambra, jorge volpi, and santiago roncagliolo), guadalupe nettel is a mexico city-born writer and translator. natural histories (originally published as el matrimonio de los peces rojos) is the first of her half-dozen or so works to be translated into english and was awarded the ribera del duero short fi ...more
2.5 stars. The stories were technically well-done but struck me as flat and boring.
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A stellar companion of a book, each story to be savoured slowly and intentionally. Every story in this collection was written in the first person narrative, and advancing from story to story, one notices Nettel’s impeccable talent in that area. A truly enjoyable read.
Jordan Hoxsie
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Note: I must give thanks to Amy for choosing me as a winner for the Goodreads First Reads giveaway and going through the trouble of mailing me an advanced copy of the book and a typed message. Hopefully this review made it worth it.

The Marriage of the Red Fish

The opening story to this considerably short collection of stories is arguably the best one. The relationships that form between the humans and nature are intriguing and worthy of analysis, as are numerous other details mentioned throughout
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There are not many authors who can master a short story in the way Nettel has in this collection. They are powerful, poignant stories that are over before you even realize it but perfectly concise.
James (JD) Dittes
The idea behind every story in this collection is the nature of love--with an emphasis on the word, "nature."

Men and women fall in love, they make love, their relationships fall apart. Naturally.

As evidence, Nettel includes in each story an animal (and in one a fungus, which, I guess, could be an animal of sorts--it certainly isn't a vegetable or mineral) which endures a similar plight to the protagonist: a betta fish must be separated from her mate or face assault; a kitten becomes pregnant, th
Christie Bane
This book ended up on my Mexico to-read list, but actually only one of the stories was set in Mexico. The rest were in Paris. But the setting didn’t play a major role in any of the stories, and they didn’t sound like Mexico, even though the author is Mexican and lives in Mexico City.

The stories themselves are well-written with satisfying endings. I definitely was more disappointed with the fact that the book didn’t feel “Mexican” than I was with the actual writing. Nevertheless, I’ve already for
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Natural Histories by Guadalupe Nettel is a book with 5 short stories about humans and animals. The 5 animals (fighting fishes, cockroaches, cats, fungi and snakes) are seen as a metaphorical reflection of the humans who are with them.

I surprisingly found myself liking this book a lot. What I like most is that each story has a lot of mystical symbolism yet is still rooted in reality - all of it seems quite plausible. You can tell Nettel put some thought into each story to draw the parallels betw
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Captivating short stories that unravel human and animal instincts as one in the same. Each short story had something for us to all learn. We are humans and our instincts can be compared to animals and insects. We live, love and move on to the next best thing. We grow frustrated, exhausted, tired but when that feeling or person leaves we either move on or we drown in our sorrows. Let's love and find time and togetherness.
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Nettel's collection of short stories is one to ruminate on. She use the natural world (fish, cockroaches, fungi, cats, and snakes) as a mirror to reflect on family relationships, particularly those between parent and child and husband and wife. Nettel's explanations of the parallels between the creatures she writes about and what is going on the character's lives is a bit heavy-handed at times, but the stories are well-written, thoughtful and evocative.
Worth reading for The War in the Trash Cans (where a family figures out an unconventional way of getting rid of household pests) and, especially, Fungus (where a woman develops an unconventional relationship with a bodily parasite). As a cat owner, I find the relationships and parallels between animals and humans super-interesting, but I thought these stories could have explored them with greater subtlety. But those two stories are very good, maybe because the creatures they focus on are pretty ...more
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish that more of Guadalupe Nettel's books were translated into English. Or maybe I should try to learn Spanish and/or French? Her writing is simple, yet there is depth to the stories. In addition to interaction between characters, there are parallel interactions with animals, insects, fish, snakes... are woven into stories like you've never read before.
Shena Cavallo
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Simple stories that make you feel a range of emotions in only about 100 pages. Nettle has enormous empathy for people, for animals and for nature. Each story was beautiful and complete. She is becoming one of my favorite writers.
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Spare and a bit gloomy: analogies drawn between the natural world and the human condition. Short story collection for literary readers.
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it
A very quick read with stories that were tense and full of low-key body horror as a metaphor for human nature and relationships.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
a wonderful collection of short stories. makes me think about the animals in my life and how they may or may not shape it.
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, short-stories
Rounding up from 3.5
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
*3.5 stars*
Richard Cho
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
All animals know what it is they need, except for man. -- Pliny the Elder

Man belongs to an animal species that when injured can become particularly ferocious. -- Gao Xingjian

According to the author:
In "Felina" I was interested in exploring the naturalness with which animals accept some biological events while we humans generate a proliferation of thoughts, problems, and confusion surrounding these same events.

Betta splendens species = siamese fighting fish = a labyrinth fish

Philisiwe Twijnstra
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Love this book
Aya Hayashi
BookRiot 2015 #ReadHarder Challenge #19 - A book that was originally published in another language

Natural Histories: Stories by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by J.T. Lichtenstein

This is yet another book that I would never have read if it weren't for the BookRiot challenge. This series of short stories were all beautifully written (and translated). This was a first reading a translated book that wasn't Western European. (Nettle is a Mexican author with a PhD in linguistics!) Each of the primary ch
Drew McCutchen
Jan 30, 2016 rated it liked it
I feel undecided about this collection. Most of the stories are OK, with only one sticking with me after the last page. As a note, this is a translation, done by J.T. Lichtenenstein from Spanish, so perhaps something was lost in that for me. I'd be interested to have a Spanish speaker read the original and tell me what they thought. Nettel weaves the lives and personalities of animals & reptiles into the themes and lives of her stories and characters, at times it seems on biblical proportion ...more
Karen Michele
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was recently the lucky recipient of a First Reads giveaway of Natural Histories. I discovered the giveaway after already choosing to read the book, so I was doubly happy. Guadalupe Nettel’s stories spoke to human animal behavior by drawing connections between us and the animals we keep as pets and even those that are unwanted invaders like cockroaches and fungi. I was fascinated by the concept as I read “The Marriage of the Red Fish” and I think she succeeded in every way with what she set out ...more
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Nothing like what I expected
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-books
I had a pretty confusing weekend. Detached. Unable.

1. All these stories involve animals, and often times what happens to the animals mirrors what's going on in the lives of their owners.
2. There's the usual like cats, but other picks are fantastic: cockroaches, fungus! (a metaphor for an affair). Disgusting, but on point. Those are my favorites.
3. I like the simile, because they could easily become cliches, a fungus infection for an affair, but there's a lot of details to avoid it being so. W
Feb 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It is always a delight to come across a unique literary concept. Guadalupe Nettel, a Mexican author, has written a small collection of fascinating stories in which each protagonist's life crisis is paralleled by another living creature. Imagine having your life crisis compared to that of a poisonous Chinese viper, a Siamese fighting fish, a cockroach, a feral cat, or even a toe fungus. I told you the stories are unique! Nettel's prose is taut and engaging. I would recommend this collection for a ...more
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Quantity or quality? That's the question I ask customers who tell me this book is far too short to read. I'll read it in a day, they say! I want to immerse myself in a world, delve in, escape!
Well, if you read this book you will. This curious, beautiful collection of stories is small but it's also pretty much perfect. Five stories with five different worlds to experience and you'll think about them long after reading. So again, quantity or quality? Give this a read, I promise it's a gem that yo
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reading through these stories they all resembled similar journal style entries, and I questioned how much I could appreciate them because of the somewhat frequent use of "for example" and other introductory phrases that made some of the sentiment seem forced. However, the oddness of these stories and the discordance being reflected rounded these mindful experiences that are drawn from nature; every one of them seems to realize that they reside within a non-exclusive order with all types of life- ...more
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Guadalupe Nettel’s fiction is known for the ambivalence of intimate yet grotesque scenarios. She has a reputation for writing about the darkest secrets and the darkest days of men and women and, in this particular case, animals. She takes the reader in an exploration of the unspeakable. “The ties between animals and human beings can be as complex as those that bind us people”, says the protagonist of “Felina”. The reader will not but agree with her because Natural Histories seems to prove how an ...more
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Guadalupe Nettel (born 1973) is a Mexican writer. She was born in Mexico City and obtained a PhD in linguistics from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. She has published in several genres, both fiction and non-fiction.

Nettel is a prolific author and a regular contributor to both Spanish- and French-language magazines, including Letras Libres, Hoja por hoja, L'atelier du rom
“Looking at her, I couldn't help but be surprised by how different she was from my mom, who, in the words of my dad, was incapable of accomplishing more than one task per day, like grocery shopping and organizing her papers, who always burned the casserole, left the sheets in the washer to mold, and the keys in the door. In short, a disaster. But an incredibly tender disaster to which I was of course deeply attached.” 0 likes
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