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A River Runs Through Us: Mexican Literature Now

February 2006

A river of language both unites and divides us and nowhere is this more true than with the stories that flow between the U.S. and Mexico. Aura Estrada’s “A Failed Journey” recounts the juvenile passion inspired by an excursion to the first McDonald’s in Mexico City, while Juan Villoro’s hyperreal personal essay “Escape from Disney World” tells of a man’s struggle with a mouse. The theme of the dream vs. the reality takes on political dimensions we rarely see in Anglophone fiction in Guillermo Fadanelli’s “Vladimiro the Arab,” Antonio Ortuño’s Capraesque “The Headhunter” and Martín Solares’ noirish “The Black Minutes.” Literature looks at itself in the mirror in Álvaro Enrigue’s “Death of the Author” and Carmen Boullosa’s playful and innovative excerpt from The Perfect Novel. Reality shimmers and drifts in and out of focus in Alain-Paul Mallard’s “Ameising” and Jose Manuel Prieto’s excerpt from his novel REX. Ominously, alchemy and deaths foretold dominate the ancient Greece of Vicente Herrasti’s “Death of a Philosopher” (with an introduction by Earl and Sylvia Shorris on Mexico’s Crack Generation of writers) and suffuse an excerpt from Gabriela Vallejo’s The True Story of the Labyrinth. And Monica de la Torre’s “Doubles” has the author-also the translator-wondering just how many of her there might be. Elsewhere, anthropologist, linguist, and Hispanophile Liza Bakewell considers patriarchy, matriarchy, and the culture of cursing, and an interview with Eloy Urroz provides a context for his own and his compatriots’ work. We are in national debt to the brilliance and generosity of guest editor Francisco Goldman, who has convened these writers in one of our best issues yet.

Editor’s Note
The selection I came-up with is not arbitrary, however. It doesn’t pretend to be the Best of the Best or anything like that.
Three abandoned Happy Meal containers from McDonald's
Photo by Meghan Hessler on Unsplash.
A Failed Journey
By Aura Estrada
They warned her that one more offense against good behavior and the promised trip to the promised land (the United States) would be cancelled . . .
Translated from Spanish by Mónica de la Torre
Escape from Disney World
By Juan Villoro
A deafening noise erupts at the metal detector.
Translated from Spanish by T.G. Huntington
Vladimiro the Arab
By Guillermo Fadanelli
“I believe in God, but I would never kill in his name,” said Argudíin, ignoring Vladimiro’s provocation.
Translated from Spanish by Marina Harss
The Headhunter
By Antonio Ortuño
“They promised to “purge” the media during their campaign. And they’re going to start with us,” he chewed on his cigarette in despair.
Translated from Spanish by T.G. Huntington
From “The Black Minutes”
By Martín Solares
Vicente Rangel González pulled out the twenty-two-caliber pistol he’d paid for in ten installments, undid his belt and put on the holster.
Translated from Spanish by Francisco Goldman & Aura Estrada
On the Death of the Author
By Álvaro Enrigue
There are stories that seem impossible to tell.
Translated from Spanish by Anna Kushner
From “The Perfect Novel”
By Carmen Boullosa
Chapter FiveWe were working on “recording” the following scenes from my novel: the Sunday lunch in the garden at Manuel’s house, where the two families part amicably, mothers and aunts…
Translated from Spanish by Samantha Schnee
By Alain-Paul Mallard
The following afternoon, I assist in the nerve-wracking removal of the bandages.
Translated from Spanish by Leticia Ramirez
From “REX”
By José Manuel Prieto
To turn the stone over in the palm of my hand, scrutinize it more closely, a real stone, a diamond in the rough?
Translated from Spanish by Esther Allen
From “The Death of the Philosopher”
By Vicente Herrasti
“What fate does the future hold for me?” Jason asked, intrigued.
Translated from Spanish by Sylvia Sasson Shorris
From “The True Story of the Labyrinth”
By Gabriela Vallejo
Here, in this hotel room with yellowish, scratched walls, Clara found an incomplete solitude.
Translated from Spanish by Marina Harss
By Mónica de la Torre
Is this some sort of joke? Just because my name sounds Spanish doesn’t mean that I am from Argentina.
Translated from Spanish by the author
My Madre, Pure as Cumulus Clouds
By Liza Bakewell
“Why is it dangerous to say madre in Mexico?” I later ask Odette, a young university student.