sábado, 20 de febrero de 2016

Balas de plata

Balas de plata (Tusquets, 2008)
by Élmer Mendoza
Mexico, 2008

For a book whose author has a rep as "el 'jefe de jefes' de la narcoliteratura" ["the 'boss of bosses' of narcoliterature"], Élmer Mendoza's cult classic Balas de plata [Silver Bullets] didn't really live up to its hype for me.  Guess maybe that cheesy cover should have been something of a tip-off.  The novel, an entertaining enough genre workout by the way, follows 43-year old Jetta-driving and tequila-drinking Mexican cop Edgar "el Zurdo" ["Lefty"] Mendieta through the mean streets of Culiacán on the trail of the murderer of a high powered lawyer.  Problem #1 for the detective: all the main suspects have narco connections to one degree or another.  Problem #2: dirty cops and people of influence from as far away as Mexico City all want the case closed unsolved.  Problem #1 for the reader: c'mon, this is all pretty fucking tame coming after the narcoliterature agony and ecstasy that was Bolaño's 2666.  Problem #2: like I said.  To be fair to Balas de plata as a simple crime novel, Mendoza makes up for some of his work's high energy but rather pro forma thriller flaws with a convincing use of Mexican street slang and amusing literary winks to the likes of Fernando del Paso's Noticias del imperio [News from the Empire], Ricardo Piglia, and Juan Rulfo's Pedro Páramo.  And on the narcoliterature front, an old school hitman's lament that rich narcos' new taste for killings for hire involving dismembering bodies, dragging victims to their deaths, and castrations shows that Mendoza's flair for irony ought not be underestimated: "Nosotros somos una empresa con ética y jamás hemos aceptado esas comisiones" ["We run an ethical business, and we've never accepted those kinds of commissions"], the hitman says.  "Es un ser humano el que vamos a matar, no un animal salvaje" ["It's a human being we're going to kill, not some wild animal"] (155).

Élmer Mendoza

6 comentarios:

  1. That last quote is pretty funny.

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    1. Yeah, Mendoza does an OK job as far as the social commentary goes. On the other hand, though, the novel's a little too formulaic.

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  2. I was curious about "narcoliterature" as a genre, and am dumbfounded by the number of books that seem to belong to it. I read one such book by Gabriel Trujillo Munoz, but can't say that I was terribly enticed to read another. Still, it's quite an interesting phenomenon that makes me think again of the line in 2666 about the cartels and their collaborators not caring about books but taking exception to the press getting involved.

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    1. Sorry to hear about your experience with Gabriel Trujillo Muñoz (his Mexicali City Blues is a title that has occasionally caught my eye at the library), but I think I'm likely to stick to nonfiction on the narcoliterature front for a while after my own experience with Élmer Mendoza here (not that his novel sucked or anything). Thanks for sharing that great line from 2666; I'd totally forgotten about it, which means it might be time for a 2666 re-reread again!

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  3. Interesting. I'm not sure how much narco lit I can do. The book I've read that's narco is The Black Minutes. Nit bad as I remember it

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    1. I would love to be surprised by something on the narcoliterature front, Paul, but right now I think that nonfiction rather than fiction is the way for me to go on the topic. I don't remember having heard much about Martín Solares' The Black Minutes, but I see that Natasha Wimmer wrote a largely favorable review of it for The Nation back in 2010. Thanks for mentioning the novel.

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