martes, 3 de julio de 2012


by Juan Villoro
Mexico, 2009

Villoro, whose 2004 Premio Herralde winner El testigo, while not quite a mindblower, was still jugoso enough to leave me wanting to read much more by the guy, here returns with a comic riff on machismo and Mexican identity in this ribald tale about a burned out mariachi star whose career-changing stint with a prosthetic penis in an Almodóvaresque arthouse porn film brings the singer new fans but leads to unexpected complications in his personal life.  I know, I know, I should probably just stop there, but I feel I owe it to you hardcore readers to share a few things that stood out in this amusing little work.  For starters, I loved the narrator's laconic description of himself: "Yo sólo podría haber sido mariachi.  Tengo voz, cara de ranchero abandonado, ojos del valiente que sabe llorar" ["In my case, I could only have been a mariachi.  I have a good voice, the face of a forsaken peasant, and the eyes of a brave man who knows how to cry"].  I also enjoyed the continuation of the description and, in particular, the playful irony with which the mariachi singer's comments work to subvert national stereotypes: "Además soy de aquí.  Una vez soñé que me preguntaban: '¿Es usted mexicano?'  'Sí, pero no lo vuelvo a ser'.  Esta respuesta, que me hubiera aniquilado en la realidad, entusiasmaba a todo en mi sueño" ["Furthermore, I'm from here.  Once, I dreamed that I was asked: 'Are you Mexican?'  'Yes,' I said, 'but I wouldn't want to be again.'  This response, which in reality would have had me killed, thrilled everyone in my dream"] (294-295).  Mostly, I admit, I got a kick out of Villoro's absurdly racy humor and the sheer novelty of his premise.  I mean, c'mon, whatever other short stories are destined to come your way during Spanish Lit Month, I'm quite confident that "Mariachi" is the only one that will dare to ask the burning question: "¿Qué puede hacer una persona que de la noche a la mañana se convierte en un fenómeno genital?" ["What can a person who turns into a genital phenomenon overnight do?"] (305-307).

Juan Villoro's "Mariachi," with the original text in Spanish and a facing English translation by Harry Morales (as with all translated passages above), appears on pp. 288-317 of the Álvaro Uribe-edited Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction short story anthology (Champaign and London: Dalkey Archive Press, 2009).

Full list of authors and stories included in the dual language volume:
Vivian Abenshushan, La cama de Lukin/Lukin's Bed
Álvaro Enrigue, Sobre la muerte del autor/On the Death of the Author
Eduardo Antonio Parra, Cuerpo presente/Requiem
Cristina Rivera-Garza, Nostalgia/Nostalgia
Guillermo Fadanelli, Interroguen a Samantha/Questioning Samantha
Jorge F. Hernández, True Friendship/True Friendship
Ana García Bergua, Los conservadores/The Preservers
Rosa Beltrán, Shere-Sade/Sheri-Sade
Enrique Serna, Tesoroviviente/Living Treasure
Juan Villoro, Mariachi/Mariachi
Fabio Morábito, Los crucigramas/Crosswords
Francisco Hinojosa, La muda boca/The Muted Mouth
Daniel Sada, El fenómeno ominoso/The Ominous Phenomenon
Guillermo Samperio, La mujer de la gabardina roja/The Woman in the Red Coat
Hernán Lara Zavala, A golpe de martillo/Hammering Away
Héctor Manjarrez, Fin del mundo/The End of the World

10 comentarios:

  1. This sounds like fun. Love the description of the Mariachi.

    1. Yeah, it's a fun goof. The entire story is sprinkled with little gems like that description.

  2. I can't say it's a question I've ever had to think about much ;)

    1. I hear you, Tony, but now you know where to come if you ever need an answer to that question--Villoro's got you covered!

  3. I don't know. It makes me want to go see the movie "Magic Mike".....

    1. Ha ha, I had to look up Magic Mike, Jill. Not only does its description sound awful but it stars Matthew McConaughey, one of the biggest actor losers on the planet! What did I do to make you so hostile to me? "Mariachi"'s funny sleazy not McConaughey sleazy!

  4. Well that's certainly an alluring way of kicking off Spanish Literature Month. As I have a secret attraction to mariachi music (oops!), this sounds like something I should read.

    1. Scott, I figured I should bust out my NC-17 material early in the month in case people get tired of the Span Lit Mo festivities sooner rather than later. They can always read about Borges and Cortázar elsewhere anyway. I don't mind a little mariachi music now and again myself, but for some reason I hear it much less out here in New England than I used to in California. Still trying to figure that geographical oddity out. :D

  5. oh this looks like an interesting collection richard ,I think Mexico has so many wonderful new writers at moment when think that list hasn't villalobos ,lusarelli and a couple of others ,all the best stu

    1. Stu, I'm not as familiar with Mexican writers as I once was. However, I'll be reading at least a couple more for Spanish Lit Month and will take note of the other two names you mentioned. Cheers!