The latest addition to my website is Tryno Maldonado‘s Teoría de las catástrofes [Catastrophe Theory. This novel is set in Oaxaca, Mexico, during the 2006 protests, arising from a teacher’s strike. Anselmo is a teacher of maths, who has come to Oaxaca and managed to find a few occasional and usually badly paid jobs teaching maths. One day, he meets Mariana at a party. They soon fall for one another and move in together after three weeks. Mariana has Type I diabetes and this has hindered her career. She is a specialist in children’s learning disorders and managed to study and then work in the USA but was unable to stay, as no-one would give her a permanent job, because of her health, so she had to return to Mexico. It is her ambition to travel abroad again and she and Anselmo have been saving for this purpose. The novel opens when they have been together three years. Things are not going well. Anselmo has not been able to find a job for a year and is becoming very depressed. After another less than successful interview, me meets Roberto, an Italian immigrant, who runs a successful restaurant. Roberto persuades Anselmo to come to his house, with Mariana, to help his son, Devendra, who has learning difficulties. Mariana (in particular) and Anselmo will eventually do so.
As Anselmo returns home, after speaking to Roberto, he is surprised to find the main square packed with people. It is the start of the teachers’ strike. Some teachers are playing football with a group of young people in black shirts. Anselmo asks to join in. At first he is refused but then joins in. The star player of the black shirts is, in fact, a young woman, Julia, and her team of black shirts are anarchists. Anselmo gets to know Julia and the other members of the group and becomes involved with their activities, which start with graffiti and move on to home-made Molotov cocktails. The rest of the novel is a detailed description of the very contentious and very violent teachers’ strike and associated protests, as well as how Mariana helps Devendra, and the deteriorating relationship of Anselmo and Mariana. Things get decidedly nasty towards the end of November 2006, as Anselmo and Mariana are caught in a police ring in the centre of Oaxaca and have a nightmare journey trying to get back to their flat. Maldonado spares us no details of the horrors they witness and endure and, by the end of the novel, all the main characters are either dead or badly scarred, physically and psychologically. It is a very intense novel and Maldonado clearly wants us to show the vicious repression of the Oaxacan authorities towards the strike, which he does very effectively. If you want to see what Mexico is becoming and, clearly, it is not improving, this novel is a good starting point. Sadly, it has not, as yet, been translated into any other language.