A techno-horror portrait of the fears and desires of six young artists whose lives are upended by a controversial video game, from National Book Award finalist Mónica Ojeda.
Six young artists share an apartment in Barcelona: Kiki Ortega, a researcher writing a pornographic novel; Iván Herrera, a writer whose prose reveals a deeply conflicted relationship with his body; three siblings, Irene, Emilio, and Cecilia, who quietly search for ways to transcend their abuse as children; and El Cuco Martínez, a video-game designer whose creations push beneath the substrate of the digital world. All of them are connected in different ways to Nefando, a controversial cult video game whose purpose remains a mystery. In the parallel reality of the game, players found relief from the pain of past trauma and present shame, but also a frighteningly elastic sense of self and ethics. Is Nefando a game for horror enthusiasts, a challenge to players' morals, or a poetic exercise? What happens in a virtual world that admits every taboo?
Unsparing, addictive, and perverse, Nefando takes us to the darkest corners of the web, revealing the inevitable entanglement of digital and physical worlds, and of technology and horror.
Mónica Ojeda (Ecuador, 1988) is the author of the novels La desfiguración Silva (Premio Alba Narrativa, 2014), Nefando (Candaya, 2016), and Mandíbula (Candaya, 2018), as well as the poetry collections El ciclo de las piedras (Rastro de la Iguana, 2015) and Historia de la leche (Candaya, 2020). Her stories have been published in the anthology Emergencias: Doce cuentos iberoamericanos (Candaya, 2014) and the collections Caninos (Editorial Turbina, 2017) and Las voladoras (Páginas de Espuma, 2020). In 2017, she was included on the Bógota39 list of the best thirty-nine Latin American writers under forty, and in 2019, she received the Prince Claus Next Generation Award in honor of her outstanding literary achievements.
Sarah Booker is an educator and literary translator. Her translations include Mónica Ojeda’s Jawbone, Gabriela Ponce’s Blood Red, and Cristina Rivera Garza’s New and Selected Stories, Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country, and The Iliac Crest. She has a PhD in Hispanic Literature from UNC-Chapel Hill and is currently based in Morganton, North Carolina where she teaches Spanish at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
Praise for Nefando
BOMB Magazine, Editor’s Choice
Southwest Review, "10 Must-Read Books of 2023"
"Cerebral, sensual and unapologetically scatological, this techno-horror tale is obsessed with ‘the internal conflict between man and beast, intellect and instinct, life and death.’” —Gabriel Iglesias, The New York Times
"Ojeda makes a convincing case that it’s not the machines that created the nightmares, but the humans. When we open our laptops, when we stare into our little screens, all that monstrousness we unconsciously fear about ourselves, words and images we worry will remain forever uploaded—all that human terror—looks back at us." —Rhian Sasseen, BOMB Magazine
“Nefando deserves attention for not only the polished craft of Booker and Ojeda, but its insistence on staring directly at genuine horrors—both online and in the real world—and unflinchingly asking why, if we won't tolerate these problems in one space, we allow them to be perpetuated in the other.” —Cory Oldweiler, The Star Tribune
"Ojeda’s work bubbles from this need to write the unspeakable—to write not just of horror, but of the moments of desire, pleasure, or love that might lie within it.” —Anna Learn, Full Stop
"Nefando isn’t for the faint of heart. It confronts the evil, unspeakable aspects of human nature, refusing to turn away its lucid, dissecting gaze.” —Sébastien Luc Butler, Foreword Reviews
“Like the fictitious Nefando itself, this is a work for voyeurs, searchers, escapists, doomscrollers. At times I feared this book yet I couldn't put it down. At some point you sense it coming to life. And what began as recreation quickly turns to compulsion. Even at the final page you fear the book will go on without you.” —Daniel Peña
“In Nefando, Mónica Ojeda compels us to bear witness to the most vicious form of sexuality as it intersects with the perversion of family and the trauma of a broken childhood. The experience of pain goes beyond what can be said, but Ojeda persists in naming it with language as poetic as it is crude. This choral, fragmented novel masterfully reveals and weaves together the darkness of our time.” —Gabriela Ponce
Praise for Jawbone
Finalist for the 2022 National Book Award for Translated Literature Finalist for the 2023 Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Fiction Longlisted for the 2023 PEN Translation Prize The New York Times, “New Books in Translation” The A.V. Club, “Books to Read in February” Words Without Borders, “Most Anticipated” February Indie Next List LitReactor, “2022 Horror You Do Not Want to Miss” Ms. Magazine, “Favorite Books of 2022” Latinx in Publishing, “Most Anticipated 2022 Latinx Books” Riffraff Bookstore, “Favorites of 2022”
“Strange, twisted . . . . Ojeda, who was named one of Granta’s best young Spanish-language novelists, writes with a polyphonic verve, agilely translated by Booker. Her language, like adolescence itself, is unruly and excessive, full of dramatic shifts and capable of both beauty and horror.” —Anderson Tepper, The New York Times
“Six girls in a private Catholic high school in Ecuador turn to the occult in Mónica Ojeda’s macabre English-language debut novel, Jawbone. The girls’ ringleader, Annelise, entertains her friends with tales of a made-up deity and eggs them on with strange dares. Soon enough, she and her friend Fernanda are falling in love, raising the stakes of Annelise’s fabricated creepypasta. Ojeda has drawn comparisons to Shirley Jackson, H.P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe.” —The A.V. Club
“Jawbone depicts the process of becoming a woman as the ultimate horror story. . . . With terrifying ease, Ojeda illustrates how womanhood is characterized by dualities: fearful and feared, desired and desiring.” —Morgan Graham, Chicago Review of Books
“Rife with gothic body horror and the darkness of the jungle and within ourselves. . . . Ojeda is a strikingly singular voice, combining basic teen angst with stark madness and the power of teen girls to push back in a world that tries to make them powerless.” —Yvonne C. Garrett, The Brooklyn Rail
“Delectable. . . . There are echoes of Lovecraft and Shirley Jackson at play, but the vision is ultimately Ojeda’s own—delicious in how it seduces and disturbs the reader as the girls rely on horror both as entertainment and as a way of staving off the actual terrors of growing up. This is creepy good fun.” —Publishers Weekly
“Edgar Allan Poe meets a few of the mean girls. . . . Mother-daughter relationships slide under Ojeda’s microscope, sharing space with the teacher-student dynamic and deities as objects in an exploration of power and sexuality during adolescence. . . . Every good horror story needs a victim; Ojeda’s monsters and victims wear the same faces.” —Kirkus
“Jawbone distinguishes itself through fevered brilliance. . . . Like the strange bloom of a corpse flower, the novel evokes life, death, and a vortex of twisted beauty.” —Meg Nola, Foreword Reviews, starred review
“A wild, dirty, surreal, creepy narrative. . . . This novel, which explores the interstices between genres, shows what can happen when a writer digs deep into language while looking for darkness, for the unexplainable, for blood. . . . A dynamic, engrossing reading experience.” —Gabino Iglesias, Southwest Review
“Mónica Ojeda is one of the most powerful and provocative voices in Latin American literature today. Her influences span from H.P. Lovecraft to Stephen King’s Carrie, to anonymous internet horror legends called ‘creepypastas.’ In her novel Jawbone, Ojeda explores the darkest aspects of women’s relationships in the suffocating atmosphere of an Opus Dei school for girls in Ecuador. In her multivocal and lyrical prose, Ojeda demonstrates the pernicious ways that violence against women can be exercised and reveals how victims can be transformed into perpetrators.” —Rose Bialer, Asymptote
“Sometimes a meditation on horror storytelling in all of its forms and sometimes a full-blown example of it. . . . Annelise (and, by proxy, Ojeda) are onto something about the primal appeal of horror literature; what Ojeda seems to be doing here, in part, is pushing that theory to its limits, and learning just how unsettling that can be.” —Tobias Carroll, On the Seawall
“It might be the most harrowing novel I’ve read in a decade. . . . As an example of top-grade horror (and frankly top-grade literature), there’s very little that will be published this year, or any year, that will surpass this devastating novel.” —Ian Mond, Locus
“Hits the sweet spot of novels under 300 pages. . . . And we always need more translated horror.” —Sadie Hartmann, LitReactor
“The horror exists in, and is generated by, a delicious but unsettling uncertainty of self and non-self whereupon realities are created and cast off. . . . Ojeda’s poetic craft shines through Jawbone’s prose. It’s a deeply visual book in which seemingly transparent images introduced early on are lacquered over with layers of meaning as the story progresses, building a patina of dread.” —Annabella Farmer, Santa Fe Reporter
“Dark academy meets existential horror in this scintillating and unsettling novel of friendship, adolescence, and ‘inquietude.’ When a group of friends find an abandoned building, their most charismatic member slowly escalates their afternoons of scary stories and dares into a secret society of dangerous rituals and potentially deadly consequences. The characters are entrancing, the ideas are insightful, and the prose itself is thrilling.” —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books
“Mónica Ojeda is fearless in her approach to both themes and style. She deals with horror and desire like few others, with a beauty so extreme that it sometimes leaves you gasping. In Jawbone, an elite Catholic school becomes the stage for nightmares fueled by obsession, creepypastas, and teenagers crazed by hormones and horror movies. But in the end, the novel is about Mónica’s primary concerns: sexuality, violence, and how a story about the damaged and the lost can be told with such beauty and relentlessness. She scares me, and she amazes me, and I think she is one of the most important writers working in Spanish today.” —Mariana Enríquez
“Jawbone is a dark fairy tale in which a group of girls become adults on their own, taking blood oaths with cruelty, torture, and vengeance. This book summons the evil spirits that surround all adolescence, and they’re made to speak straight into our ears. As chilling as it is necessary, like all of Ojeda’s work.” —María Fernanda Ampuero
“Mónica Ojeda has at her disposal the most enviable combination I can imagine, and she has it in spades: a lucid mind, an exacting language, and a wild heart.”—Andrés Barba