Sunday, May 17, 2015

Juan Pablo Villalobos' Quesadillas

Juan Pablo Villalobos' Quesadillas is a sometimes surreal dark comedy about Mexico the 1980s. The original Spanish title was "Si viviéramos en un lugar normal" (If We Lived Somewhere Normal). I'm not sure why they changed it so drastically--in the novel quesadillas are constantly mentioned as something like an economic indicator of the protagonists' family (i.e. how many you get, how thick they are, etc.) but the theme of the book is bigger.

That theme is basically that Mexico will do what it can to crush you (which along with the dark humor also made me think of the novels of Paco Ignacio Taibo II). The family lives in El Cerro de la Chingada, which the author himself translates as "the hill in the middle of fucking nowhere." And as the teenaged protagonist noted:

But all this about being middle class was like the normal quesadillas, something that could only exist in a normal country, in a country where people weren't constantly trying to screw you over" (p. 28).

And the novel takes you on a bizarre journey, often really funny, that centers on getting screwed over. This includes a Mexican family where all the children have Greek names, as well as class conflict, cow insemination and alien abduction. There's no way to understand how those come together without just going ahead and reading it.


Alfredo 9:34 PM  

Will eventually read this book.

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