The dynamic small publisher Peirene Press specialises in short contemporary European novels in translation. Yesterday is an exception, as it was originally published in 1935 and the author was Chilean. However, both novel and author can qualify loosely as European, for Juan Emar, who was born Alvaro Yáñez Bianchi in 1893, spent many years in Paris. He adopted his pen name from the French J’en ai marre (‘I’m fed up’) and his novel dances firmly in the embrace of European surrealism. It is one of four books (three novels and a story collection) he published between 1935 and 1937 that sank with little trace, ignored by critics and the public. He published no more and died in 1964. It was not until Pablo Neruda’s essay of praise of 1971, comparing Emar to Kafka, that Emar’s reputation began to grow.
The fluently written and translated Yesterday deals with the events of one day in a great fictional city (map included). The narrator and his ‘adored’ wife walk the streets and encounter extraordinary incidents and people, including the public execution of an innocent man, hundreds of monkeys singing (his wife joins