High Heels

Federico Jeanmaire


Fifteen-year-old Lin Su Nuam, the protagonist of Jeanmaire latest novel High Heels ("Tacos altos"), has been living with her grandparents in China for several months. Although her family comes from the Chinese city of Suzhou, Su Nuam has spent ten years in Argentina, where her father ran a market stall selling food. Su Nuam loves Spanish and uses it to write her diary after her return. She lost her father in an attack by local Argentines on the Chinese immigrants' market. After that, the girl returned alone to her home country. But the Chinese traditions she encounters, exemplified by her grandparents, seem rather strange to her. The role of women, embodied her grandmother always standing in the shadow of her grandfather, makes it difficult for Su Nuam to feel that she belongs in China. She would like to leave school and work. When she gets an offer from a Chinese gas company to go to Buenos Aires as an interpreter, she hesitates because the shock of her father's death is connected to the city. Finally she decides to travel with her grandfather, who wants to visit the grave of his son and accompanies her as a minor. During the negotiations in Buenos Aires it is clear that Su Nuam's new employers do not want to use her as the official interpreter, but rather as a spy, to pass on the private discussions of their Argentine business partner. However her initial disappointment about the deception is mitigated by an unexpected opportunity to avenge the death of her father, through a contract murder. And so Su Nuam suddenly faces a moral decision, made easier by her grandfather who advises always to exercise justice.
With the simple words of a fifteen-year-old, Jeanmaire deals with some great themes of humanity: history, migration, loss, revenge, the clash of cultures. The question of belonging, the issue of opposing images of women, the corrupt nature of international economic relations and the conflict between tradition and progress flow together through the lovingly created figure of Su Nuam. The world language of Spanish brings together Argentina and China in this exceptional work of an imaginative and talented author. Tacos altos is an original, densely atmospheric and exciting book.


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