About the book
After twelve years in exile, living and teaching in the safety of Montreal, Alma Alvarez has been persuaded to return to Luscano by her old friend Flaco, who has invited her give a lecture at his university on the tragic Uruguayan poet Delmira Agustini, a writer with a cult-like following known for her erotic poetry and film noir demise.
Having been arrested herself after the publication of a poem which offended the military regime, Alma knows how influential and dangerous poetry can be. But her mother is dying, and her return to Luscano feels inevitable. She soon discovers that life in Luscano is still rife with secrecy and duplicity. And Flaco turns out to have a hidden agenda as well. As Alma attempts to readapt to a country that, despite its seductive charms, may not have broken free of its brutal past, she catches sight of the man whose actions prompted her exile and begins to follow him in secret.
The imaginary country of Luscano, an amalgam of Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, is vibrantly brought to life with a nod to the region’s literary tradition of magic realism.
About the author
Cora Siré writes poetry, essays and fiction. Her poems have appeared in Descant, the Literary Review of Canada, The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2009 (Tightrope Books) and Sus huellas son letras (Éditions Alondras, 2011). Born in Canada, she often writes of elsewheres, both real and imaginary, drawing on her encounters in realms ranging from Argentina to Vietnam and her family’s history of displacement. She lives in Montréal.
Enrique Job shows her the tickets he purchased yesterday, two passages to Buenos Aires by boat. "Please, Nena, think about it. We could—"
"Put them away." She stands by the mirror and unbuttons her dress, letting it slide down her silk slip. Delmira steps out of the dress and sits on the sofa bed to remove her shoes. Enrique Job lights a cigar. Perhaps he tries one last time to dissuade her.
If so, the argument is short. "Where is it?" she might ask, with the poet's urge to see, to concretize. He removes the nine-millimetre-calibre Smith revolver from a drawer in the nightstand. If she has masterminded this scene, she must have compromised on the modus. Her verses foreshadow a beheading, smother and, most often, poisoning, a spider's poison, pill of delirium or divine poison, but the macho horse-trader must have drawn the line. She loosens her hair and lies down on the sofa bed.
Less than half an hour after Delmira Augustini entered her ex-husband's room, two shots are heard, a pause, and then two more.
“After 12 years’ exile in Montreal, Alma Alvarez returns to her native Luscano, the place she fled after being held as a dissident prisoner by the country’s former murderous regime. Alma returns to a now-democratic Luscano to research an early…” >>
— Jade Colbert The Globe and Mail
“Poet's novel one of exile and courage
Cora Siré brings her poet's eye for detail and lyrical language to Behold Things Beautiful, a finely constructed novel which deals with, Siré says, "a recurrent theme in my writing…” >>
— Margaret Goldik Prairie books Now
““Turn out the lights… words emerge fragile as sprigs…and behold things beautiful. You exhale. Close all doors and enter illusion…the words pull you elsewhere. To a desk, clean hands holding a book, your former self, safe and sane. Briefly you remember…” >>
— H. Nigel Thomas Montreal Review of Books