Toxic Chemicals in Samanta Schweblin’s Distancia de rescate (Fever Dream)
Published in 2014 under the Spanish title Distancia de rescate and then in English translation as Fever Dream in 2017, Samanta Schweblin’s first novel joins the long and celebrated inventory of Argentinean literary works that draw upon innovative forms to question our reality. Set in a small town “four and a half hours” away from the capital, Fever Dream presents the stories of Amanda and Carla, two women whose lives are forever changed by the nightmarish environment around them, as they deal with the physical, emotional, and mental effects of the exposure to an omnipresent substance. In this article, I analyze Distancia de rescate (Fever Dream) in the context of the global change in ecosystems driven by toxic waste and persistent pollutants as byproducts of industrial and agricultural capitalist practices. From this perspective, Schweblin’s novel poses some thought-provoking questions: How does an environment altered by chemical poisons affect our perception of reality? How can we talk about concepts such as medicine, science, and superstition? What are we to do in the face of such invisible but omnipresent menaces? What possibilities does literature offer to examine the effects of the spread of toxic chemicals at a global scale? I intend to propose some answers by establishing a dialogue with previous works that have examined the presence of toxic chemicals in the environment from a historical, anthropological, and literary studies perspective.
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