Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Uncomfortable Dead

As the food crisis—based on the high price of corn, which has raised the price of tortillas—escalates into protests in Mexico, it is fitting to do a book review on The Uncomfortable Dead, the new novel by Mexican detective novelist Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Subcomandante Marcos, the famous Zapatista leader. They do alternating chapters. I am contemplating using it in my Latin American politics class in the fall—although it can be confusing at times (Marcos is clearly not a novelist!) it is a highly readable introduction to the world of, as Marcos himself puts, “those who get screwed.”

Immediately evident is that Marcos has a great sense of humor, which surprised me. There is a lot of discussion of the plight of the poor, but interlaced is a sometimes hilarious cast of characters, from a transvestite turned revolutionary, to a guy who dubs the voice of Barney into Spanish. Marcos himself is in the novel, and he writes about himself in the third person in a way that seems perfectly natural.

Also interesting is that the two authors don’t view the world in the same way. In his novels, Taibo’s main character always shows his love of Mexico City, even as he recognizes its shortcomings. Marcos and his characters simply refer to the city as “The Monster.” Every politician in The Monster is viewed as corrupt, including López Obrador. Taibo’s character, meanwhile, has no interest in revolution. But they all agree that there is too much evil and corruption, and this creates a bond between them.

The law of the budget is to take your fill: if you don’t steal it, someone else will (p. 149).

You have to understand: evil has its levels. There are those who screw the screwed, and there are those who screw the screwers of the screwed (p. 176).

The plot can sometimes be hard to follow, and jumps around—it centers mostly on tracking down a shadowy figure named “Morales.”. Nonetheless, I really liked the ending, which I won’t explain because I would give it away.


Anonymous,  1:42 PM  

Thanks for pointing this book out! I missed this one. In my past readings and audio lectures from Marcos, I also noticed his humble sense of humor.


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