This World Does Not Belong to Us
A journey to the bowels of the earth
After years away, Lucas returns uninvited to the home he was expelled from as a child. The garden has been conquered by weeds, which blanket his mother’s beloved flowerbeds and his father’s grave alike. A lot has changed since Eloy and Felisberto were invited into the family home to work for Lucas’s father, long ago. The two hulking strangers have brought the land and everyone on it under their control—and removed nuisances like Lucas. Now everything rots. Lucas, a hardened young man, turns to a world that thrives in dirt and darkness: the world of insects. In raw, lyrical prose, García Freire portrays a world brought low by human greed, while hinting at glimmers of hope in the unlikeliest places.
Natalia García Freire
Natalia García Freire was born in Cuenca in 1991. She teaches Creative Writing at Azuay University in Ecuador and has also worked as a primary school… Read more
Book Club Questions
- What struck you most about This World Does Not Belong to Us, anything from a theme to an object?
- Why does Lucas come back?
- How would you define the relationship between Felisberto and Eloy?
- Why does Lucas’s father just accept everything?
- What was going wrong the night Felisberto and Eloy arrived and silenced the cows? Do they somehow represent something crucial that was missing in this household?
- Why do Sarai, Noah, and Mara stay? Are their reasons the same?
- What happens between Sarai and Lucas outside the stables?
- Property is a major theme: control of the house, ownership of the maids, ownership of Lucas as a slave, ownership of animals … Can these different aspects of property be tied together?
- Does Lucas’s mother show a different mode of ownership, with her garden? Or should it perhaps not be considered ownership at all?
- What is the difference between the roles the insects and plants play in the novel?
- Is song and dance always ominous (the piano, the carnival party …)?
- Señorita Nancy’s molting has something majestic about it—what is the difference with the decaying feet?
- Is there a strict separation between revitalizing death and putrid stasis in the book?
- What is the meaning of books? For Professor Erlano, Lucas’s mother, Lucas?
- Why does Lucas’s father make such a point of correcting Professor Erlano about Napoleon’s height?
- What happens at the end, with Lucas, Sarai, Noah, and Mara in the house?
- Why does Lucas bury the keys to the house? Is it related to his stealing the keys to his mother’s prison room?
- How would you characterize the ending, in one word—happy, tragic, something else …?
- And, considering the book as a whole, what did it leave you with?
- This is Natalia García Freire’s debut novel. Are you curious to see what she writes next?
Praise for This World Does Not Belong to Us
“Disquieting and visceral. … García Freire unearths a brilliant sense of the miraculous from the swarming and putrid subject matter. The result is beautifully macabre.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review
“One of the debut novels that most stood out this year in Latin America.”
New York Times
“A deliciously menacing read which I just couldn’t put down. Every word punches hard. This World Does Not Belong to Us treads the fine line between beauty and horror effortlessly.”
JAN CARSON, author of The Raptures
“Visceral prose. … There is a strange, unconventional beauty to Lucas’s morbid world—a beauty that helps him endure pain and humiliation and achieve an unnerving final calm. This World Does Not Belong to Us is a bleak exploration of how all ends in death and decay.”
“García Freire manages to make us sweat with her characters. Feel the sting of their bites. This novel demonstrates a salient maturity, exudes literary knowledge, and takes risks. The writer masters the world of emotions and the words to encapsulate it.”
“This book is pure beauty, pure love for the written word.”
“García Freire takes us to the deepest parts of the human condition.”
“Full of courage and lucidity, Natalia García Freire writes against the current, she doesn’t care about buzz or dogmas. Her writing is inhabited by the voices of literary masters. What a mature novel from a twenty-nine-year-old who knows so much about life, the passing of time, old age, the absence of God and death. There are books that can only be written by those who love plants devastatingly. This is one of them.”
“This World Does Not Belong to Us leads the reader into the deepest, darkest regions of human existence, where what is most infected and rotten becomes beautiful and liberating.”
“Why do we need to read this book? Because like all good literature, as full of inventions as it may seem, it contains a core of truth about human nature. We need to read this book because we are all parents or children and at some point we have questioned or question what it is to be a father, what it is to be a child. And above all because it tells us about a completely alien world that exists right next to us, or next to our feet—the world of insects.”
“A maturity that leaves you breathless. This great writer forces us to lie down on the earth and be touched by insects, plants, and matter.”
Radio Nacional España
“Natalia García Freire is unbelievably young to have written a first work of such talent.”
Relatos en construcción
“There’s an echo of Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo in this novel. The return home, the search for a father or at least the memory of him. The ghosts. Only here, instead of the murmurs, we have a constant buzzing of insects and the noise of animals.”
MARÍA JOSÉ NAVIA, author of SANT
“I am moved by its tenderness, the shadow of its flight, the kingdom it comes from. Insect and poverty. Larva and death.”
DARA SCULLY, author of Animal de nieve
Why You Should Read This Book
“This World Does Not Belong to Us began as an attempt to tell the story of my grandmother’s house. That was the house where I learned what death, madness, sickness, and love mean, the house where I lost people, where I couldn’t understand that they were not going to come back. So, I used fiction as a way to reach them; through words, through imagination, through insects and earth.”
NATALIA GARCÍA FREIRE, the author
“What I enjoyed most about translating Natalia García Freire’s riveting debut was the challenge of capturing the urgent, enigmatic and idiosyncratic voice of Lucas, the novel’s narrator. Lucas’s inability to reconcile his father’s sterile view of the world with what he witnesses in nature, where things are in a constant state of flux and decay, is the driving force behind his narration: a furious denunciation and repudiation of the hypocrisy and myopia of his father’s belief system.”
VICTOR MEADOWCROFT, the translator
“Natalia García Freire is a new and highly exciting voice in Latin American literature. Her debut novel totally blew me away; it’s as powerful as a punch to the gut; it’s the sort of story to make you fall flat on the earth with the taste of soil in your mouth and the scent of decay in your nose. Hers is a dark universe, full of mystery and poetry. Hers is a story one reads with the senses rather than with the mind.”
JUDITH UYTERLINDE, the publisher