cover image Quesadillas


Juan Pablo Villalobos, trans. from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $13 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-53395-3

Mexican novelist Villalobos (Down the Rabbit Hole) fuses personal mythologies and political margins in his new novel, a riotous tall tale set in the hills of Cerro de la Chingada and narrated by young Orestes, whose perennial concern, despite his family%E2%80%99s crippling poverty, is wresting his daily share of his mother%E2%80%99s quesadillas from his six brothers and sisters, %E2%80%9Call of them highly qualified strategists in the survival tactics of big families.%E2%80%9D There%E2%80%99s Aristotle, the eldest; Archilochus; Callimachus; Electra; and the %E2%80%9Cpretend twins%E2%80%9D Castor and Pollux, who go missing after a violent rebellion sweeps the countryside. Convinced that they%E2%80%99ve been kidnapped by aliens, Aristotle draws his brother into a search in which the imaginary merges with the realities of destitute backwater Mexico. Calling it magical realism would be lazy, given the undertone of socially conscious indignation that underlies often-fantastical imagery: a highway procession of pilgrims, %E2%80%9Can orgy of hysterical cows,%E2%80%9D and the pervasive sense of a Greek epic confined to squalor. With tidy, uncompromised prose, Villalobos has inaugurated a new kind of avant-garde novel, one whose grasp of certain dehumanizing political realities never erodes the power to dream something better. Agent: Andrea Montejo, Indent Literary Agency. (Feb.)