Fever Dream is that very rare find – part literary masterpiece; part spell-binding, page-turning, chilling thriller.
A woman is dying in hospital. A small boy called David is whispering to her in the dark, asking her to recall how and why she got there. The woman starts to talk of David’s mother, Carla, and of how she and her daughter first met them. But where is Carla now, and, more importantly, where is her daughter?
Published in the UK by indie publishing house, Oneworld, Fever Dream was originally written in Spanish by Samanta Schweblin (originally titled Distancia de Rescate) and was translated into English by Megan McDowell.
Nominated for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, it could easily be argued that Fever Dream should be added to the canon of great existential works – a modern day reworking of the genre. There’s a continuous sense of disorientation for the reader and a feeling of dread that grows from page to page. The main character seems powerless to find meaning or control in a polluted and toxic world.
Why do you think the author uses the dialogue between Amanda and David to tell the story? What impact does this have on the novel?
Is there a deeper meaning to this book? If so, what do you think it is?
And do you think there is a message in the book?
Why do you think Amanda focusses on Carla’s bikini?
There is a sense in the book that Amanda has no control on what is happening around her. How is this achieved and why do you think that is? What part does Carla play in that?
Is this an existential novel?
What is the concept of the worms?
What elements of the story are supposed to be real, do you think?
Discuss the role that fathers and mothers, men and women play in this story?
Scared by Carla and David’s strangeness, Amanda decides to return home, but feels it would be polite to say goodbye to Carla first, so she goes to her office. There, Amanda and her daughter, Nina, come into contact with pollutants leaking from oil drums. At first, they are taken to the local clinic, but the nurse says they are just suffering from heatstroke. Knowing something is terribly wrong, Amanda tries to drive home with her daughter, but collapses in her car. Amanda is taken to hospital but her daughter is taken by Carla to the woman at the green house.
Amanda dies but as she does so, she foresees her husband returning to the town with her daughter to visit David’s father. Her husband asks him why Nina is changed, but then sees that David, Carla’s son, has the same white spots on his skin. David’s father tells Nina’s father that he should leave.
Samanta Schweblin is an Argentine Spanish-language author, who was born in Buenos Aires, but who now lives in Germany. She was named as one of the twenty-two best writers in Spanish under thirty-five years of age by Granta magazine in 2010, and in 2019 she was nominated for the second time for the Man Booker International Prize, this time for her English translation of Pájaros en la boca (Mouthful of Birds).