Category: Mexico Page 1 of 5

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.

Latin American female writers

Just a brief post to refer you to this article in today’s Guardian. It is about rediscovered women writers in Latin America, particularly Mexico. I was familiar with Luisa Josefina Hernández and have a copy of her Nostalgia de Troya. Several other of her works are available but only in Spanish. Sadly they they have not been translated into English, though I was curious to see that one has been translated into Estonian and another into Polish. I was not familiar with the other ones mentioned in the Guardian article. They are readily and very cheaply available in Spanish in Kindle format. (You do not need a Kindle to read Kindle books. You can read them on your desktop computer with the Kindle Cloud Reader or with an app on Android/OSX/IOS/IPadOs/Windows). I hope to get round to one or two later in the year. Perhaps some enterprising publisher might publish one or two in English.

Rodrigo Márquez Tizano: Yakarta (Jakarta)

The latest addition to my website is Rodrigo Márquez Tizano‘s Yakarta (Jakarta). This is a dystopian novel from Mexico, describing a country called Atlantika, where a horrible epidemic, with the virus vector carried by rats, strikes the country regularly. The latest one – the Ź-Bug – has been brought under control but everyone knows another one will be back. The people have their bread and circuses in the form of a jai-alai type game, called Vakapý, played by robots, where statistics are very important and where a lot of people spend a lot of time and money on betting on it. Our unnamed narrator is part of a clean-up team and bets on Vakapý. He also has a girlfriend, Clara, who has found a strange stone which gives her and, later, him visions, possibly of a different future. But above all the novel is unremittingly bleak.

Valeria Luiselli: El archivo de los niños perdidos (Lost Children Archive)

The latest addition to my website is Valeria Luiselli‘s

Chloe Aridjis: Sea Monsters

The latest addition to my website is Chloe AridjisSea Monsters. It tells the story of Luisa, a seventeen year old Mexican girl in 1988. She has no siblings and few friends. She is not close to her parents, who have their own preoccupations. She is not particularly interested in her school work or her future. She comes across Tomás, who has dropped out of school, and gradually they become closer. She reads about a troupe of Ukrainian dwarves who have defected from a Soviet circus troupe in Oaxaca and persuades Tomás that they should run away and go looking for the dwarves, so they head off to Zipolite. The second part of the book tells of her time there – she and Tomas drift apart – as she meets the mysterious Merman, thinks she sees the dwarves and has fantasies about the sea and about the dwarves. It is all about a young woman trying to find who she is and where she is going and what life holds for her.

David Toscana: El ejército iluminado (The Enlightened Army)

The latest addition to my website is David Toscana‘s El ejército iluminado (The Enlightened Army). This Mexican novel tells the story of Ignacio Matus who has two bugbears, both concerned with his hatred for the United States. The first concerns the 1924 Olympics marathon at which, he claims, he won the bronze medal in front of the US runner Clarence DeMar. The only slight problem is that DeMar and the other athletes ran the race in Paris where the Olympics were being held, while Matus ran it in Monterrey, Mexico. Nevertheless, he had a better time than DeMar and theretofore should have the bronze medal. His other issue concerns the Mexican territories annexed by the United States in the mid nineteenth century which, he claims, rightfully belong to Mexico. When he is fired for teaching this view at school, he sets out with a ragged army to Texas and captures the Alamo. It is a very enjoyable book, even though things do not go quite right for DeMar but he is certainly one of the obsessive fools of literature, whom we cannot help having a grudging admiration for in his foolishness.

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