Guadalupe Nettel’s gripping and insightful fourth novel explores one of life’s most consequential decisions – whether or not to have children.

Alina and Laura are independent and career-driven women in their mid-thirties, neither of whom have built their future around the prospect of a family. Laura has taken the drastic decision to be sterilised, but as time goes by Alina becomes drawn to the idea of becoming a mother.   

When complications arise in Alina’s pregnancy and Laura becomes attached to her neighbour’s son, both women are forced to reckon with the complexity of their emotions, in Nettel’s sensitive and surgically precise exploration of maternal ambivalence. 

Still Born was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2023, announced on April 18, 2023.

The International Booker Prize 2023
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Guadalupe Nettel

Guadalupe Nettel

About the Author

Guadalupe Nettel was born in Mexico and grew up ‘between Mexico and France’.
More about Guadalupe Nettel
Rosalind Harvey

Rosalind Harvey

About the Translator

Rosalind Harvey is a literary translator and educator from Bristol, now based in Coventry in the West Midlands, UK.
More about Rosalind Harvey

Guadalupe Nettel on Still Born

‘In the beginning, my intention was to write the story of my friend and her little daughter, which I’ve found incredibly inspiring, both terrible and beautiful at the same time. Every day, children are born with neurological conditions that set them apart from others. Their families often take these situations as misfortunes that will end forever the life they had and turn it into hell. I wanted to show, through the story of this friend of mine, that it is possible to transform this painful experience into a meaningful one. 

‘Many demands weigh on mothers. They are always compared to an unattainable stereotype, one that has made women feel inadequate. Not to mention those who decide to remain childless, who are rarely represented in literature up to now. To me, Still Born is a novel which affirms female choices and which challenges patriarchal ideas of motherhood and maternal instinct. 

‘I would like this novel to help readers realise that human diversity – especially that of children with neurological conditions and women of all kinds – is always beautiful and interesting and that there is no reason to fear or reject it.’

Read the full interview here.

Guadalupe Nettel, author of Still Born, shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2023

What the judges said

‘Two best friends share an aversion to “the human shackles” of motherhood, only to discover that life has other plans. With a twisty, enveloping plot, the novel poses some of the knottiest questions about freedom, disability, and dependence – all in language so blunt it burns.’

What the critics said


‘Rosalind Harvey skilfully translates the original Spanish into precise and plain, but deeply moving, prose. Without resorting to sentimentality, the novel charts its characters’ halting efforts to understand and comfort one another. It is a piercing reflection on the ways acts of care bind people together.’

The Big Issue

Still Born embraces both the joys of motherhood, and all the milked-up gunk, guilt-tripping and agonising. The decisions made are never straightforward. But this novel is vital in its emphasis on the right for people to make their own choices about their own bodies.’

Hritik Verma, Hindustan Times

‘Beautifully rendered in English by Rosalind Harvey, Still Born addresses the taboo of being ambivalent to motherhood with an admirable honesty […] Still Born does the work of all impressive fiction; it creates conversation and generates ideas about the topics that are not as openly spoken about as they should be.’

Anderson Tepper, The New York Times Book Review

‘Nettel, whose earlier work has at times veered toward the phantasmagoric, is all the more haunting here for her vivid realism. Still Born, translated by Rosalind Harvey, is a heart-racingly intense journey.’

Jessica Winter, The New Yorker

‘One of the welcome surprises of Still Born, however, is how quickly it swerves away from Laura’s anti-natalist campaigning, as if Laura, too, wanted out of her own head and into a broader web of experience … Her story grows more polyphonic, less fixed and binary in its assumptions about care work and family-making.’

Still Born