Book summary: Yaguara

1994 BY NICOLA GRIFFITH

“Yaguara,” originally published in slightly different form in 1994, is the longest story in the collection, and the most complex. It tells the story of photographer Jane Holford, who travels to South America to photograph the ruins of Kuchil Balum being excavated by Dr. Cleis Fernandez. This is no ordinary archeological excavation, however, with teams of graduate students and orderly marked grids for digging. Jane and Cleis are the only occupants of a lonely shack in the jungle, and their sole contact with the locals is the silent but formidable Ixbalum, a woman who clearly knows what the glyphs that Cleis is transcribing mean, but who refuses to share her knowledge.

“Yaguara,” the Spanish word for “jaguar,” is a kind of fairy tale—the kind that was told well before Disney came along, with a palpable sense of wildness and wonder. There is desire here, too, in the form of the sexual tension between Cleis and Jane, and also in the desire to know what goes on in the wet jungles that surround them. It is something primordial and awesome, and Griffith’s prose is as lush as the tropical scenery and as driven as the pull of the wild on Cleis.

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