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In five extraordinary apartments live five extraordinary families. Designed in the shape of a tongue, each apartment takes the name of a flavour – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. And the tenants are no less eccentric. In Umami lives retired food anthropologist Alf, landlord and creator of the building. At Bitter lives manic depressive Marina, who neither eats nor paints but invents colours with words; at Sour lives newly parented (as well as New Age) couple Daniel and Daniela; and at Salty lives the Perez-Walkers with their daughter Ana, aka Agatha Christie, a precocious twelve-year-old who spends her days buried in detective novels to forget the unresolved death of her younger sister.
Alf is also grappling with the death of a loved one. Recently bereaved, he types letters to his dead wife in the hope she will somehow respond, and together Alf and Ana lean on and support one another – until their lives threaten to spiral out of control. Darkly comic and dizzyingly inventive, Umami is a remarkable and heart-wrenching novel that is as compelling as it is whimsically devastating.
Laia Jufresa’s work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Pen Atlas and Words Without Borders. In 2015 she was invited by the British Council to be the first ever International Writer in Residence at Hay Festival in Wales, and in the same year she was named as one of the most outstanding young writers in Mexico as part of the project México20. Umami is her first novel. She lives in Cologne, Germany.
Sophie Hughes is a literary translator and editor living in Mexico City. Her translations have appeared in Asymptote, PEN Atlas, and the White Review and her reviews in the Times Literary Supplement and Literary Review.