Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Two Mexican Writers for Fans of Roberto Bolano

With The Savage Detectives and 2666, Roberto Bolano exploded onto the literary scene in America. Both works were critically acclaimed with 2666 winning the National Book Critics Circle Award. Almost overnight Bolano went from an obscure Mexican author to a literary superstar.

I think there are two other Mexican writers, right now little known in America, who fans of Bolano would enjoy.

The first is Juan Villoro. There is almost nothing of Villoro's work translated into English, except an excellent short story in the Fall 2009 issue of the lit mag n+1. "Among Friends" is a brilliant story narrated by a Mexican journalist who acts as a contact for a successful and award winning American journalist, named Samuel Kramer. Kramer is back in Mexico to do an article about violence in the country when he is kidnapped. Much like The Savage Detectives, "Among Friends" is a kind of mystery but one that reveals different objects than those ostensibly sought. This is a story about representing the truth, about the predation of culture, and about the artifice of national identity. Here is an excerpt from Among Friends.

The second author is Mario Bellatin who I first read about in this New York Times article. He has two books available in English, a novella called Beauty Salon, and Chinese Checkers: Three Fictions. Beauty Salon is one of the weirdest books I've ever read. It would probably take more time for me to describe it than for you to just read it. The basic plot is that, in the presence of a mysterious plague, the proprietor of a beauty salon turns his salon into a hospice home of sorts; and he keeps an aquarium of fish. In some ways he is like the wonderful and maddening Russian surrealist Daniil Kharms, in others, he embodies Bolano's simmering mystery, and in others he is a completely unique writer.

Hopefully, the momentum Bolano generated will bring more works by these great writers into America.


blogolina said...

Thanks for the suggestions! Even though Mexico is the setting for a lot of his fiction, BolaƱo was Chilean.

Josh said...

He was born in Chile, and, though he returned there on occasion, he spent most of his life away from Chile. I guess it probably wouldn't be fair to call him a Mexican writer either, as he also lived in Spain, France, and El Salvador. But that does raise the question of how we identify an author's nationality. T.S Eliot was born in America, but converted to Anglicanism and became a British citizen.

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