New Mexican Fiction (1)
He decidido pegar por partes la ponencia que llevé a la London Book Fair. Como verán, está en inglés. Se me pidió hablar sobre jóvenes narradores mexicanos y yo seleccioné cinco de los escritores que más me gustan (dejando fuera desgraciadamente a varios que también consideraba dignos de inlcuirse). Además de hablar un poco de cada uno de ellos, traduje un extracto del trabajo de cada quien (excepto en el caso de Alberto Chimal, que me dio sus textos ya traducidos). A continuación, la primera parte:
Mexican literature has a rich tradition that spans from the ancient pre-hispanic myths to post-modern contemporary fiction. Nevertheless, two circumstances had prevented it from being widely read among european readers. First, is our peripherical condition as a nation. Being almost a United States colony, who would take seriously Mexican literature beyond the well-known major authors such as Octavio Paz or Carlos Fuentes? Second, is the language frontier. Even in a globalized age, good translations are scarce and expensive. Being ours an antique and complex culture, accurate translations turn out to be pretty difficult, as I experienced myself while preparing this lecture.
If I had to summarize Mexican new fiction's characteristics, I'd find myself on deep trouble. Some critics have pointed out several general characteristics:
*Younger Mexican writers are now less interested on local subjects that global thematics. Cosmopolitism and europhilia made a comeback, as the Crack generation has stated.
*Even though the historical novel seems to be pretty popular these days, urban fiction and social decay seem to be more appealing to young authors.
*Subgenres such as crime and science fiction, traditionally despised by Mexican authors, have an increasing influence on younger writers.
*There seems to be a great simpathy for English speaking authors, specially post-war American writers, as opposed to the last generation's affaire with the french. William Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouack, John Fante, Martin Amis, Hanif Kureishi and Raymond Carver, just to name a few, seem to be pretty popular among my generation.
But these are only general assumptions; on the whole, the true richness of new Mexican fiction rests on its diversity.
Choosing fine examples of young Mexican writers turned out to be a complex task. First off, it was necessary to define young and then, pick some examples of the finest active narrators.
My criteria was to choose writers that fullfilled the following requirements: (1) They had to be younger than forty, (2) They had to have won at least one important literary award and (3) They had to have published at least two books.
The prior characteristics eased just a little my task. At the end, I picked five of my colleagues, I wrote a little introductury text about them and their books and then translated an excerpt from their work (except in the case of Alberto Chimal, who translated his own texts. I must say that he's by far a finer translator than myself).
Finally, I just want to mention some of the writers that didn't make it to my selection, which I regret. They are Gerardo Porcayo, Gonzalo Lizardo, Antonio Malpica and Julián Herbert.
José Luis Zárate was born on Puebla, Mexico's fourth major city, on 1966. By far my personal favourite living Mexican author, he's published several books, including short stories collections, novels and an essay on film. His novel La ruta del hielo y la sal (The Ice and Salt Route) won the Vid International Science Fiction and Fantasy award. He's basicly won all the major Spanish awards on fantastic literature. His is a truly original voice that merges the fantastic with a delicate poetic tone. Tatuajes, dibujos mínimos (Tatoos, minimal drawings) is an unpublished short fiction book composed by 500 ultra-short stories about, well, tatoos. Next, four samples.
I witness the tatoo's birth, the ink woman raising her head on my flesh. I see her stand difficultly, and leave.
I stay here, all blood and pain.
I expect to heal, to trace her again.
Hoping that this time, she stays with me.
I close my eyes as you undress. In the dark, your body is a warm tide, wind blowing through the printed paths of my flesh, a panting breathing on the picture's lines, the slow pain of passion on the ink.
Your invisible body, shifting, liquid, only exists at the touch of my skin; and you only touch the drawing you traced yourself.
Awareness and pleasure, an ocean sea printed on me.
All you are --as I am for you-- is a tatoo.
The tatoo machine is composed by an electric motor, an rolling wheel and a hollow needle that pricks and folds at full speed with a tiny hook at the end.
With an effort, patiently, the tatoo artist skillfully fishes the image immersed on the skin.
The woman pointed one of the suspects.
"That's him. He raped me."
The one with the red dragon on his chest, they wrote. But they were wrong.
She wasn?t pointing the man.
It was the tatoo. The obscene, red beast.