In his tiny preface, Jorge Luis Borges describes Maria Luisa Bombal as a "wonderful Chilean writer", and in the introduction by the translators she is described as "the most important Latin American woman novelist of this century". This is not faint praise. The question is, how come nobody in America has ever heard of her and you can count her works in translation on two fingers? This slim volume is not enough for me to make any judgements of her worth or talent.
Bombal writes stories that border on fantasy or horror. In the first story, actually more a novella, "The Final Mist", she writes about two cousins who marry each other a few months after the man's first wife has died. He cannot forget his dead wife and she merely married him to keep from being a spinster. So she seeks her satisfaction in other places, meeting a strangely supernatural man in the streets one night. "The Tree" also concerns a marriage. In it, the wife, Brigada, comes to the realization that she no longer knows why she married her husband. "The Unknown" was to me the best story of the collection since it lacked all sentimentality. It was about a pirate ship that gets sucked down to the bottom of the ocean by a whirlpool. When the crew wakes up they find themselves in a desert whose sky is simply a reflection of the sand. "New Islands" shows the conflict between two men as they covet the same married woman even as strange volcanic islands form off the coast.
After reading this too brief collection, I want to read more by Bombal. There's just not enough here to get any feel for the writer. She does make you feel uneasy and when she gets the horror elements going it really works. Her relationships do verge into the sappy at times though. I also feel that this collection was manipulated in some way to try to portray Bombal as some feminist champion, as mentioned in the book jacket. I would like to find one of her novels, but I doubt I will find one in English.