Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 329
"New Islands" is a short story by María Luisa Bombal, a Chilean author who write in the spirit of famous Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, whose short story "The Aleph" garnered worldwide acclaim, and who wrote an introduction to Bombal's collection of short stories in which this one appears. Bombal's "New Islands" portrays the parallel words of the real and imaginary, specifically between reality and nightmares. The main character, Juan Manuel, travels to a new island that mysteriously appeared in a lake and stays at an hacienda operated by the mysterious Yolanda and her brother, Federico. Juan Manuel is attracted to Yolanda at a party, but is told by a much older party guest, Sylvester, that she jilted him thirty years prior. Yolanda routinely experiences nightmares, and, on his final day on the island, Juan Manuel sees her looking in a mirror and stroking some vestigial wing on her shoulder. This vision is enough to send Juan Manuel back to Buenos Aires.
The story is an exploration of the mysterious qualities of the female. Yolanda, the representative female, is an enigma to the men she eludes. Nevertheless, she regrets this isolation (as she demonstrates an attraction to men and claims to have wept for the first man, Sylvester, whom she abandoned). Yolanda's dreams suggest that she has a uniquely feminine connection to nature. The natural world is a primordial one, and so the feminine element is privileged with access to this nightmarish land before time.
The story exhibits comparisons on many levels: between the male perspective (of Juan Manuel) and the female one (of Yolanda). A parallel is to this drawn between the order of the city (a man's world) and the trackless nature of the (feminine) island. Finally, the novel suggests a Freudian Madonna-whore complex on the part of Juan Manuel. He reveres his late wife, Elsa, who will not age and so will always be revered, but is nevertheless attracted to the elusive and undomesticated Yolanda.