Optic Nerve

Optic Nerve


‘A highly original, piercingly beautiful work, full of beautiful shocks… I felt like a door had been kicked open in my brain’ Johanna Thomas-Corr, Observer

A woman searches Buenos Aires for the paintings that are her inspiration and her refuge. Her life -- she is a young mother with a complicated family -- is sometimes overwhelming. But among the canvases, often little-known works in quiet rooms, she finds clarity and a sense of who she is . . .

'I was reminded of John Berger's Ways of Seeing, enfolded in tender and exuberant personal narratives'
Claire-Louise Bennett

'This woman-guide, who goes from Lampedusa to The Doors with crushing elegance, is unforgettable' Mariana Enriquez

'A dazzling combination of memoir, fiction and art book, like nothing you’ve ever read before’ Elle


  • I was reminded of Berger's Ways of Seeing, enfolded in tender and exuberant personal narratives - it's so sophisticated and fascinating, yet has a Calvinoesque light touch; all the textures and nuances come through without labour. Rigorous and mercurial.
    Claire-Louise Bennett

About the author

Maria Gainza

Maria Gainza was born in Buenos Aires, where she still resides. She has worked as a correspondent for the New York Times in Argentina, as well as for ARTnews, and has contributed to Artforum, The Buenos Aires Review, and Radar, the cultural supplement from Pa´gina/12. Her debut novel, Optic Nerve, translated by Thomas Bunstead, was shortlisted for the 2020 LA Times Art Seidenbaum award for First Fiction, a finalist in the 2020 National Translation awards, and a New York Times 'Notable Book' of 2019.
Learn More

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more