The Wind That Lays Waste begins in the great pause before a storm. Reverend Pearson is a evangelist preaching the word of God across northern Argentina with his daughter Leni in two. When their car breaks down, fate leads them to the workshop of an ageing mechanic, Gringo Brauer, and his assistant, a boy called named Tapioca.
Over the course of a long day, curiosity and a sense of new opportunities develop into unexpected intimacy. Yes this encounter between a man convinced of his righteousness and one mired in cynicism and apathy will become a battle for the very souls of the young pair: the quietly earnest and idealistic Tapioca, and the restless, sceptical preacher’s teenage daughter. As tensions among the four ebb and flow, beliefs are questioned and allegiances are tested, until finally the growing storm breaks over the plains.
Selva Almada’s exquisitely crafted debut, with its limpid and confident prose, is a profound and poetic, nearly-tangible experience of the landscape amid hot winds, wrecked cars, sweat-stained shirts and damaged lives, told with the cinematic precision of a static road movie, like a Paris, Texas of the south. The Wind That Lays Waste is a powerfully distinctive novel that marks the arrival in English of an author whose talent and poise are undeniable.