In the U.S., crime fiction doesn't always get the respect it deserves - you know, that old anti-genre bias that lingers long after it should have quietly curled into a quivering ball and imploded, along with other remnants of literary establishment snobbishness and prejudicial assumptions about what literature really is. Around the world, the situation often is different. In Europe, Latin America, and Asia, crime novels are recipients of prestigious awards (some with huge amounts of money) and the focus of impressive academic conferences. In some countries, a new book from a local mystery writer is major news. As with good writing in general, international crime fiction sometimes is a tool of progressive activists in struggles against oppressive regimes, or in specific movements against particular injustices. And, sometimes, crime fiction is nothing more than expertly crafted stories with intriguing characters surrounded by very human drama in books that become hugely popular. This week's post lists a few noteworthy books recently translated into English from Mexican, Chilean and Spanish writers.
And then a bit about an award-winning author's recent visit to Denver.
The Transmigration of Bodies
translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman
AOS - July 7, 2016
[from the publisher's website]
“These days we walk right past a body on the street, and we have to stop pretending we can’t see it.”
– from The Transmigration of Bodies
A plague has brought death to the city. Two feuding crime families with blood on their hands need our hard-boiled hero, The Redeemer, to broker peace. Both his instincts and the vacant streets warn him to stay indoors, but The Redeemer ventures out into the city’s underbelly to arrange for the exchange of the bodies they hold hostage.
Yuri Herrera’s novel is a response to the violence of contemporary Mexico. With echoes of Romeo and Juliet, Roberto Bolaño and Raymond Chandler, The Transmigration of Bodies is a noirish tragedy and a tribute to those bodies – loved, sanctified, lusted after, and defiled – that violent crime has touched.
Born in Actopan, Mexico, in 1970, Yuri Herrera studied Politics in Mexico, Creative Writing in El Paso and took his PhD in literature at Berkeley. His first novel to appear in English, Signs Preceding the End of the World, was published to great critical acclaim in 2015 and included in many Best-of-Year lists, including The Guardian‘s Best Fiction and NBC News’s Ten Great Latino Books. He currently teaches at the University of Tulane, in New Orleans.
Albina and the Dog-Men
translated from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam
Restless Books; Tra edition- May, 2016
[from the publisher]
From the psychomagical guru who brought you The Holy Mountain and Where the Bird Sings Best comes a supernatural love-and-horror story in which a beautiful albino giantess unleashes the slavering animal lurking inside the men of a small village.
When two women—an amnesiac goddess and her protector, a leather-tough woman called Crabby—arrive in a Chilean desert town, Albina’s otherworldly allure and unfettered sensuality turn men into wild beasts. Chased by a clubfooted corrupt cop, evil corporate overlords, giant-hare-riding narcos, and Himalayan cultists, Albina and Crabby must find a magical cactus that will cure Albina and the men’s monstrous affliction before the town consumes itself in an orgy of lust and violence.
Albina and the Dog-Men is Alejandro Jodorowsky’s darkly funny, shocking, and surreal hybrid of mystical folktale, road novel, horror story, and social parable, ultimately uniting in a universal story of love against the odds and what makes us human.
Alejandro Jodorowsky was born to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants in Tocopilla, Chile. From an early age, he became interested in mime and theater; at the age of twenty-three, he left for Paris to pursue the arts, and has lived there ever since. A friend and companion of Fernando Arrabal and Roland Topor, he founded the Panic movement and has directed several classic films of this style, including The Holy Mountain, El Topo, and Santa Sangre. A mime artist, specialist in the art of tarot, and prolific author, he has written novels, poetry, short stories, essays, and over thirty successful comic books, working with such highly regarded comic book artists as Moebius and Bess.
The Invisible Guardian
translated from the Spanish by Izzie Kaufler
Atria - March, 2016
[from the publisher]
Already a #1 international bestseller, this tautly written and gripping psychological thriller forces a police inspector to reluctantly return to her hometown in Basque Country—a place engulfed in mythology and superstition—to solve a series of eerie murders.
When the naked body of a teenage girl is found on a riverbank in Basque Country, Spain, homicide inspector Amaia Salazar must return to the hometown she always sought to escape. A dark secret from Amaia’s past plagues her with nightmares, and as her investigation deepens, the old pagan beliefs of the community threaten to derail her astute detective work. The lines between mythology and reality begin to blur, and Amaia must discover whether the crimes are the work of a ritualistic killer or of a mythical creature known as the Basajaun, the Invisible Guardian.
Torn between the rational procedures of her job and the local superstitions of a region shaped by the Spanish Inquisition, Amaia fights against the demons of her past in order to track down a killer on the run.
The Gesell Dome
translated from the Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger
Open Letter - August, 2016
[from the publisher]
Winner of the 2013 Dashiell Hammett Award
Translated with support from the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant
Like True Detective through the lenses of William Faulker and John Dos Passos, Gesell Dome is a mosaic of misery, a page-turner that will keep you enthralled until its shocking conclusion.
This incisive, unflinching exposé of the inequities of contemporary life weaves its way through dozens of sordid story lines and characters, including an elementary school abuse scandal, a dark Nazi past, corrupt politicians, and shady real-estate moguls. An exquisitely crafted novel by Argentina’s foremost noir writer, Gesell Dome reveals the seedy underbelly of a popular resort town tensely awaiting the return of tourist season. (Read an Excerpt)
Guillermo Saccomanno is the author of numerous novels and story collections, including El buen dolor. He is the winner of the Premio Nacional de Literatura and a two-time Dashiell Hammett Prize recipient for 77 and Gesell Dome. He also received Seix Barral’s Premio Biblioteca Breve de Novela for El oficinista, and his book Un maestro won the Rodolfo Walsh Prize for nonfiction.
Tomés Rivera Children's Book Award Winner Visits Denver
Texas State University College of Education developed the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award to honor authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience. The award was established in 1995 and was named in honor of Dr. Tomás Rivera, a distinguished alumnus of Texas State University.
This award will be given annually to the author/illustrator of the most distinguished book for children and young adults that authentically reflects the lives and experiences of Mexican Americans in the United States.
Criteria for the selection of a winner include:
The book will be written for children and young adults (0-16 years).
The text and illustrations will be of highest quality.
The portrayal/representations of Mexican Americans will be accurate and engaging, avoid stereotypes, and reflect rich characterization.
The book may be fiction or non- fiction.
The 2016 winner in the category Works for Older Readers is Out of Darkness (Carolrhoda LAB) by Ashley Hope Pérez.
Here's the award announcement for Out of Darkness:
Pérez’s historical fiction explores the devastating consequences of racism in the context of the worst school disaster in U.S. history. Set in New London, Texas in 1936 when oil drilling created new jobs, commerce, and a new school, we see a community reckoning with a legacy of tripartite segregation among White, Black, and Mexican families. When seventeen-year old Naomi arrives to this community from San Antonio, we feel her pride in being Mexican, her commitment to protect her younger twin brother and sister, Cari and Beto, and her fears as she encounters racist and sexual violence from school peers, shopkeepers, church goers, and her step-father, Henry, who is White. Naomi’s isolated life is transformed, however, when she falls in love with Wash, a young Black man who knows the lines drawn by racial hatred as well as the dreams that might flourish through family, love, community, and education. As Naomi and Wash’s love grows, so too do the pressures to conform to gendered and racial codes. In third person prose, alternating among the perspectives of Naomi, Wash, Henry, the twins, and ‘The Gang’ of White high school students, Pérez illuminates the contours of love and hate within a family and across a community.
Naomi and Wash’s desire for a community free from fear resonates with the demands of young activists today, and with Tomás Rivera’s call for Chican@ literature that bears witness to those who search for truth, memory, community and equity. Such stories, like Out of Darkness, are often beautiful, difficult, and heartbreaking. Ashley Pérez has courageously imagined a time of unspeakable loss, so that young adult and adult readers might understand how we have come to live with such division and pain in our communities; and how we might imagine ourselves as change makers who will not let racism stand.
Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of the YA novels Out of Darkness (Carolrhoda Lab, 2015), The Knife and the Butterfly (Carolrhoda Lab, 2012), and What Can’t Wait (Carolrhoda Lab, 2011). Her debut novel What Can’t Wait won a spot on the 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for YA list, The Knife and the Butterfly was included in the 2015 YALSA Popular Paperbacks list, and Out of Darkness was named a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. Ashley grew up in Texas and taught high school in Houston before pursuing a PhD in comparative literature. She is now a visiting assistant professor of comparative studies at The Ohio State University and spends most of her time reading, writing, and teaching on topics from global youth narratives to Latin American and Latina/o fiction. She lives in Ohio with her husband, Arnulfo, and their sons, Liam Miguel and Ethan Andrés. Visit her online at http://www.ashleyperez.com/.
Recently, the author was a guest at a meet-and-greet at the BookBar, a local literary hangout in Denver. I stopped by, as did La Bloga veteran Rudy Ch. Garcia. Ms. Pérez is an engaging author who graciously spent time with Rudy and I talking about her book, writing, the publishing process, and other things that authors latch onto when they talk among themselves.
|Ashley Hope Pérez and Rudy Ch. Garcia|