Selva Almada’s novel is the finest expression yet of her compelling style and singular vision of rural Argentina. Translated from Spanish by Annie McDermott.

Three men go out fishing, returning to a favourite spot on the river despite their memories of a terrible accident there years earlier. As a long, sultry day passes, they drink and cook and talk and dance, and try to overcome the ghosts of their past. But they are outsiders, and this intimate, peculiar moment also puts them at odds with the inhabitants of this watery universe, both human and otherwise. The forest presses close, and violence seems inevitable, but can another tragedy be avoided?

Not a River was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2024, announced on April 9 2024.

The International Booker Prize 2024
Published by
Charco Press
Publication date

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Portrait of author Selva Almada

Selva Almada

About the Author

Selva Almada is considered one of the most powerful voices of contemporary Argentinian and Latin American literature and one of the most influential feminist intellectuals of the region.

More about Selva Almada
Portrait of translator Annie McDermott.

Annie McDermott

About the Author

Annie McDermott is the translator of a dozen books from Spanish and Portuguese into English.
More about Annie McDermott

David Johnson reads an extract from Not a River

What the International Booker Prize 2024 judges said

Not A River moves like water, in currents of dream and overlaps of time which shape the stories and memories of its protagonists. Enero and El Negro have brought their young friend and protégé Tilo on a fishing trip along the Paraná River in Argentina. The island where they set up camp pulses with its own desires and angers, tensions equal to those of the men who have come together on its shores. Alongside the story of these grief-marred characters, the author offers those of the women of the town – and what luck to root for or mourn them: the mother whose ever-growing fires engulf us, her two flirtatious, youth-glowed daughters, and the almost-mythical manta ray who becomes one of the guardians and ghosts of this throbbing, feverish novel.’ 

Group photo of the International Booker Prize 2024 Judges; Romesh Gunesekera, Natalie Diaz, William Kentridge, Eleanor Wachtel and Aaron Robertson.

What the critics said

Publishers Weekly

‘The novel becomes more ethereal and ghostlike in the second half, and Almada particularly excels at depicting her characters’ fragility and vulnerability: “Ties here are made of cobwebs…. One little breeze and they break,” one character says. Like a dream, this otherworldly tale lingers in the reader’s mind.’

El periódico

‘This is a narrative of great depth in which the settings (the river, fishing, the island) emerge from a very powerful poetic narration that keeps quiet more than it says aloud, that omits more than it recounts, a dreamlike voice marked by an infinite and familiar wound anchored in a dialectic between dreams and an indestructible future.’

Chicago Review of Books

‘Almada is forceful in her depictions of sex, violence, and rage. I feel her prose in my body: a punch in the gut, the sharpness of glass. McDermott’s translation captures the bite of Almada’s sentences, which render both tenderness and violence with devastating clarity.’

Morning Star

‘What makes the book compelling is how the author explores issues of domestic violence, state complicity, machismo and family negligence, along with class and social inequalities, in a non-sentimental prose which is all the more effective as result.’

The Big Issue

‘This is a powerful read…[Almada’s] effective use of fiction ensures a deep empathy in her readers which strict reportage sometimes fails to evoke.’