A couple of years ago I became acquainted with Mariana Enriquez’s storytelling. I since marvel at the Argentinian writer’s talent to conjure up such terrifying stories from the daily Latin American everyday violence. She is one of the few contemporary writers that creep me out (in a good way, I guess) and when I discovered she had written a book about cemeteries I quickly added it to my list.
When I read Alguien camina sobre tu tumba (not yet translated to English, but the title means Someone walks over your grave), I was fascinated to have a closer look at the writer’s obsession with death, mortuary rituals, witchcraft, ghosts and local legends, themes that are always present in her short stories.
The book is the perfect mix between travel anecdotes and essays. Every chapter is about a different cemetery the author has visited, her experience and her insight and reflections on what the “culture of death” and our relationship with graveyards tells about us as a society. You’ll find creepy stories and quirky details but also interesting and obscure historical facts about some cemeteries.
Some of my favorite chapters were about cemeteries in New Orleans, Mexico and Italy, although many are about small cemeteries in Argentina that I now want to visit. Reading the book I felt relieved that someone apart from myself enjoys visiting cemeteries, since they are an important stop whenever I travel, and could add many places to the list of cemeteries worth visiting, like St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, Ireland; Highgate in London; Nottingham General Cemetery; The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague and, of course and maybe my favourite, Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh.
Cemeteries are certainly strange places, perhaps not in their very common and practical use, but in all the folklore and atmosphere we give them; they are shrouded in religiousness and superstition and are a common setting for ghost stories. They are also, in many cases, beautifully quiet places where one can take a nice walk and reflect on things. In fact, some cemeteries have acted as muses for many a poet.
In Enriquez’s book there talk of all this. If you are a cemetery lover and enjoy spooky literature, I highly recommend this book, as well as Things We Lost in the Fire, a collection of short stories by Mariana Enriquez. Have you read anything by her? Or have you read any other books about cemeteries?