Category: Mexico Page 1 of 6

Brenda Lozano: Brujas (Witches)

The latest addition to my website is Brenda Lozano‘s Brujas (Witches). We follow the story of three Mexican women. Paloma is, in fact, a muxe, assigned male at birth but who dresses and behaves in ways otherwise associated with women. She starts off as Gaspar, following the family tradition of being a curandero, a traditional healer, before continuing as Paloma. The book starts with her murder. We also follow Feliciana, related to Paloma, who becomes a successful curandera, both of physical ailments and disease of the soul. By the time she is twenty, she has three children and is a widow. The third woman is Zoe, a journalist from Mexico City, who is subject to sexism, though we also follow the story of her family, particularly her more colourful sister Leandra, who, among other things, sets fire to her school. All women, like others in this book, are subject to male violence but all three show how women live their lives.

Salvador Elizondo: El hipogeo secreto (The Secret Crypt)

The latest addition to my website is Salvador Elizondo‘s El hipogeo secreto (The Secret Crypt). The novel is about a writer called Salvador Elizondo who is writing a book called The Secret Crypt. We start with a disparate group called Urkreis and we gradually learn that they are, possibly, the characters of this novel. Gradually, Elizondo, the real author but also the author who is the subject of the book, who may or may not be the same person and may or may not exist, tries to come to terms with his characters (and they with him), himself as both author and subject, the reader, who is reading the book in which she is one of the subjects and where the book has not actually been written yet, as we are reading it as it is being written. If you are lost, you will be further lost as all these conundrums get more and more complicated as the book progresses. It is very clever, very original and fun to read if you are not looking for a clear outcome.

Juan Pablo Villalobos: La invasión del pueblo del espíritu (Invasion of the Spirit People)

The latest addition to my website is Juan Pablo VillalobosLa invasión del pueblo del espíritu (Invasion of the Spirit People) . Set in an unnamed city but almost certainly Barcelona, this novel follows Gastón, an immigrant who runs a market garden. His friend Max, has a restaurant but he has lost his lease and refuses to leave while Gastón’s dog called Kitten is dying of cancer. Meanwhile Pol, Max’s son is working in the tundra but suddenly appears, with tales of aliens using directed panspermia to control us, while Max’s father turns up, on the run from the authorities in his country. Gastón just wants to have Kitten die peacefully in his garden, not at the vet’s, while watching the greatest footballer on Earth play, though he, too, seems to have his problems. Immigration is clearly the main topic as most of the main characters are immigrants (including the footballer) and those from Russia and China face greater opposition from the local vigilantes but, in Villalobos’s view, they enrich the local culture. With his usual humour, colourful story and sympathy for the immigrants, Villalobos gives us another fine novel.

Fernanda Melchor: Paradais (Paradais)

The latest addition to my website is Fernanda Melchor‘s Paradais (Paradais). The novel is set in an exclusive gated community in Mexico. The sixteen-year old Polo has dropped out of school but his mother has forced him to take a job at Paradais, where he has to clean up, garden and keep the place tidy, a job he hates almost as much as he hates his controlling mother and his pregnant cousin who lives with them. His only friend is Franco, whom he nicknames Fatboy, grandson of Paradais residents, who has also dropped out and provides cigarettes and alcohol. Fatboy lusts after one of the residents, Marian Marono, wife of a TV star, while Polo cannot wait to get away, for which he needs money. Both can be obtained from the Maronos home and Fatboy knows how to get in. Violence, crime, drugs, alcohol consumption and the huge disparity between rich and poor are all themes of this book, where no-one seem content and poverty and wealth clash.

Sergio Pitol: El desfile del amor (Love Parade)

The latest addition to my website is Sergio Pitol‘s El desfile del amor (Love Parade). Miguel del Solar is a forty year old Mexican living in England but visiting Mexico City. He has just written a history book on 1914/15 in Mexico and now plans to write one on 1942. His research reminds him that in 1942 he was staying with his aunt and uncle in a flat in Mexico City. One night Delfina del Uribe, who lived upstairs, held a party attended by various Mexican glitterati. At the party a young Austrian was murdered, two people shot and one assaulted. The whole issue was covered up even though it was suggested that German agents were involved. Del Solar decides to investigate the event, speaking to the survivors of which there are a few. Each one gives a different, often conflicting account both about the party and shooting but also about one another. Quoting Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina, he concludes no one was who they claimed to be,the characters unfolded continuously, adopting the most absurd masks, as if it were the only way of living with others. In short there is no one truth.

Mario Bellatin: Salón de belleza (Beauty Salon)/Poeta ciego [Blind Poet]

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The latest addition to my website are two stories by Mario Bellatin. The first is a new translation of Salón de belleza (Beauty Salon) and the second an untranslated work Poeta ciego [Blind Poet]. The first tells of a beauty salon for women run by three cross-dressing, gay men. When an AIDS-like pandemic breaks out the owner converts it into a hospice/mortuary where seriously ill men (and only men) can come to die. However, all the time – both as a beauty salon and as a hospice/mortuary – he remains obsessed with his aquarium fish. And then he gets symptoms of the disease.

Poeta ciego [Blind Poet] tells of a blind poet who inherits a lot of money and founds a bizarre sect, apparently (according to the author) based on the Peruvian The Shining Path terrorist group. (Bellatin was living in Peru at the time.) The Blind Poet is murdered by his wife when she finds him having sex with his nurse but the sect carries on, preaching and practising violence and austerity and preaching but not always practising celibacy.

Javier Serena : Últimas palabras en la Tierra (Last Words on Earth)

The latest addition to my website is Javier Serena‘s Últimas palabras en la Tierra (Last Words on Earth). This is a fictionalised account of a novelist called Ricardo Funes who is based on the great Chilean novelist, Roberto Bolaño. We follow his struggles, firstly in Mexico and his involvement with what is called here negativism but is clearly based on Infrarealism, to his struggles in Spain where he faces rejection but ruthlessly sticks to his literary principles. He has a fairly happy marriage and two children but also health issues, caused by his chain-smoking. Above all success is hard to come by. We see the story through the eyes of a fictitious fellow writer as well as through the eyes of Funes and his wife. Whether you enjoy the work of Bolaño or not, this is a fascinating account of a writer’s struggles.

Brenda Lozano: Cuaderno ideal (Loop)

The latest addition to my website is Brenda Lozano‘s Cuaderno ideal (Loop). This is the story of a modern-day Penelope (from The Odyssey). Our thirty-year old Mexican woman lives with Jonás, whose mother has recently died. She was Spanish so Jonás, his sister and his father go off to Spain to trace her roots, with Jonás staying longer to travel around. Meanwhile our Penelope is left at home weaving, only her weaving is in the Ideal Notebook of the Spanish title. She jots down not a plot-based novel but snippets of her life and, above all, of the anchors in her life, be they family and friends, books and music or what she calls useless things. She discourses on many things from typefaces to Juan de la Cosa, from dwarves to swallows, all the
while waiting, waiting and hoping Jonás will come back safe and sound. It works very well as she jumps around, as we gradually get a picture of her life.

Juan Pablo Villalobos: No voy a pedirle a nadie que me crea (I Don’t Expect Anyone To Believe Me)

The latest addition to my website is Juan Pablo Villalobos‘s No voy a pedirle a nadie que me crea (I Don’t Expect Anyone To Believe Me). This is a brilliant novel about corruption and humour, about racism and academia. The main character is Juan Pablo Villalobos, a Mexican doctoral student who goes to Barcelona to study and gets caught up with a bunch of nasty gangsters who require him to change his life for their devious ends, with distinctly unpleasant consequences. Some of it is clearly tongue-in-cheek but much of it is serious, as Juan Pablo (the character) gets dragged more and more into the plot,at the expense of his studies and of his girlfriend, Valentina. It manages to combine much humour with a serious intent and accordingly works very well.

Fernanda Melchor: Temporada de huracanes (Hurricane Season)

The latest addition to my website is Fernanda Melchor‘s emporada de huracanes (Hurricane Season). The novel tells the story of a small Mexican town, La Matosa. At the beginning, the body of a woman known locally as The Witch, is found dead in a stream. The novel tells her story and that of her mother, also called The Witch as well as the story of the people associated with her death. Her mother had married a man with fields that brought in rent. He died in mysterious circumstances and his sons by a previous marriage were killed in a car accident when they came to claim what they considered their inheritance. The daughter appeared some years later. No-one knows who her father was. After a huge hurricane destroyed much of the town, the daughter survived and continued her mother’s work, adding sex and drugs to her repertoire. However, the main theme of the novel is how these women and, indeed, all the other women in the book are badly treated by the men: violence and sexual abuse, as we follow the stories of those associated with the death of the Witch. The book is a superb indictment of the violence committed every day to women in Mexico and, of course, everywhere.

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