Signs Preceding the End of the World

Yuri Herrera, Author, Lisa Dillman, Translator
Yuri Herrera, trans. from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman. & Other Stories
(www.andotherstories.org), $13.95 trade paper (140p) ISBN 978-1-908276-42-1
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Herrera’s first book to be translated into English tells the story of a border-crossing from Mexico into the U.S. Makina is a young woman asked by her mother to deliver an envelope to her brother, who crossed over into the U.S. three years earlier and has only sent a few cryptic pieces of correspondence since. The story opens with a man, a car, and a dog swallowed up by a sinkhole, a product of over-mining the land for silver (“These things always happen to someone else, until they happen to you,” Makina thinks). Her journey is presented starkly, like a fable: she first connects with three “top dogs” to help transport her, and one of them gives her an additional package to deliver on her trip as part of the deal, then proceeds to complete her task systematically. Indeed, the nine short chapters tell a very straightforward quest story, and Herrera plants dangerous criminals and vigilant border patrollers around every corner. But it’s the imagery, by turns moving and nightmarish, that makes this brief book memorable. A climactic scene occurs in an “obsidian place with no windows or holes for the smoke.” And at one point along the way Makina finds nothing but a barren locale populated by excavators digging in the earth, a place so alien and desolate it could be found in science fiction: “Whatever once was there had been pulled out by the roots, expelled from this world; it no longer existed.” This is a haunting book that delivers a strange, arresting experience. (Mar.)
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