Still Born

Guadalupe Nettel

Translated by Rosalind Harvey

Published 22 June 2022 | French paperback with flaps, 219 pages
Shortlisted for the 2023 International Booker Prize

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Still Born, Guadalupe Nettel’s fourth novel, explores one of life’s most consequential decisions – whether or not to have children – with her signature charm and intelligence. 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 sterilized, 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 prose that is as gripping as it is insightful, Still Born explores maternal ambivalence with a surgeon’s touch, carefully dissecting the contradictions that make up the lived experiences of women.

Still Born is an astonishingly elegant, intelligent, affecting novel, which has stayed in my mind from the moment I began it to long after I finished. I felt a huge sense of relief that I had encountered a work of art about ambivalence in mothering, which encompassed a true, authentic range of emotions and curiosities – vanity, aggression, jealousy and selfishness – with sanguine acceptance, as well as the beautiful and difficult project of giving and sustaining love which marks all our lives, mothers or otherwise.’
— Megan Nolan, author of Acts of Desperation

‘In Still Born, Guadalupe Nettel renders with great veracity life as it is encountered in the everyday, taking us to the heart of the only things that really matter: life, death and our relationships with others. All of these are contained in the experience of motherhood, which this novel explores and deepens.’
— Annie Ernaux, author of The Years

Still Born is a rare thing: an unsentimental analysis of the ambivalences and moral complexity of motherhood. It is a book which demands to be discussed, at length, with friends, and I longed to do so.’
— Jessie Greengrass, author of The High House

‘Nettel is one of the leading lights in contemporary Latin American literature…. I envy how naturally she makes use of language; her resistance to ornamentation and artifice; and the almost stoic fortitude with which she dispenses her profound and penetrating knowledge of human nature.’
— Valeria Luiselli, author of Lost Children Archive

Still Born is a startling novel about whatever it is that drives adults to take care of children, and all the many things that make that care painful and sometimes impossible. There is a quiet force to the poised and deliberate writing. The novel is a deep exploration of affection and vulnerability.’
— Caleb Klaces, author of Fatherhood

‘I read Still Born in less than a day. It is perfect: deeply feminist, wise, funny and alive. Nettel is generous to each of her characters, and in prose that is crisp and light. I love this book.’
— Yara Rodrigues Fowler, author of there are more things

‘An unflinching, compassionate meditation on mothers, daughters and sisters – both blood-related and chosen – Still Born stirred me and consoled me, renewing my faith in the power of women’s communities. Guadalupe Nettel has managed the impossible task of writing a work of both exacting honesty and immense tenderness, on one of the most delicate topics.’
— Livia Franchini, author of Shelf Life

‘Deeply intelligent, Still Born is a propulsive novel with a depth of feeling so woven into the language that it never feels worn or applied. The denatured quality of the tone means the ideas of the book – the suspicion of the body as having incompatible desires from the mind; the impulses versus the aversions to child-having; the complexities of the mother-child dynamic – all just absolutely sing. I loved it.’
— Susannah Dickey, author of Common Decency

‘I love the work of Guadalupe Nettel, one of Mexico’s greatest living writers. Her fiction is brilliant and original, always suffused with sensuality and strange science.’
— Paul Theroux, author of The Mosquito Coast

‘Nettel is free. She has succeeded in creating an audacious narrative style all her own, a singular and fearless way of being in the world. An essential voice of the new Latin American literature.’
— Enrique Vila-Matas, author of Mac’s Problem

‘Guadalupe Nettel reminds us that there is nothing stranger than our existence lived in containers of meat, blood and madness.’
— Mariana Enríquez, author of The Dangers of Smoking in Bed

 ‘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.’
— Economist

‘This highly original novel, in an excellent translation by Rosalind Harvey, pursues a range of ideas connected to children, who should have them and who should take care of them.… There’s a dark undertow to Still Born that reminded me of Elena Ferrante’s novels.’ 
Miranda France, TLS

‘Solitude, the vulnerabilities of the body, unearthing the beautiful in the strange, outsiders who are unwilling to conform – these are some of [Nettel’s] interests … [and she] carries some of these concerns into Still Born…. The prose, which appears in an elegant translation by Rosalind Harvey, retains a matter-of-factness, and in some places a synoptic quality … that is rarely freighted with sadness or despair.’ 
Sarah Resnick, London Review of Books

‘Nettel, translated by Rosalind Harvey, devotes tight prose to the complicated structure of identity around being (or not being) a mother and explores the constant negotiating women must do in the process. It’s a subject that’s well-trodden, but it’s still consistently treated as a universal experience – Nettel approaches mothering with originality and oceans of empathy.’
Anna Cafolla, The Face

‘The writing is subtle, sharp, and beautifully rendered thanks to Rosalind Harvey’s smooth translation.’
Buzz Magazine

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.’
The Big Issue

‘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.’
Hritik Verma, Hindustan Times


Guadalupe Nettel was born in Mexico and grew up between Mexico and France. She is the author of the international award winning novels El huésped [The Guest] (2006), The Body Where I Was Born (2011), After the Winter (2014, Herralde Novel Prize) and Still Born (2020) and three collections of short stories, all published by Anagrama, the most prestigious of all Spanish-language publishing houses. Her work has been translated into more than fifteen languages and has appeared in publications such as Granta, The White Review, El País, the New York Times, La Repubblica and La Stampa. She currently lives in Mexico City where she’s the director of the magazine Revista de la Universidad de México.

Rosalind Harvey is a literary translator and educator from Bristol and now based in Coventry in the West Midlands. She has translated writers such as Juan Pablo Villalobos, Elvira Navarro, Alberto Barrera Tyszka, and Enrique Vila-Matas, and her work has been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Oxford–Weidenfeld Translation Prize, amongst others. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Arts Foundation Fellow, a committee member of the Translators Association, and a founding member of the Emerging Translators Network.