Senora Rodriguez - CL

Martha Cerda, Author, Sylvia Jimenez-Anderson, Translator Duke University Press $35 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8223-1886-6
In her first novel to be translated into English, this award-winning Mexican author takes readers on an exuberant metafictional gambol. Senora Rodriguez receives a purse as a birthday gift from her mother-in-law and attempts to form her identity based on its contents. From the purse she extracts the extraordinary: a full-length mirror; the gun of Pancho Villa; a map pointing to the Fountain of Youth. Also, as this is a work filled with puns and gags, there's ""a picture of a young boy in love which bears the following dedication: `To Senora Rodriguez from your fervent admirer: Dorian Gray.'"" There are also items she keeps in her purse ""just in case,"" including condoms that prove faulty when she becomes pregnant at age 55. Interwoven among the 30-plus vignettes of Senora Rodriguez are an equal number of short (and short-short) stories that deal with ""the Other Worlds."" These tend to touch on chilling themes such as bigotry, as in ""German Dolls,"" in which a child treats blue-eyed dolls as though they are at a concentration camp. Within surreal settings, the author brings up philosophical issues and explores the worlds of reading and writing and the reality-making powers of language. In fact, Senora Rodriguez finds her existence threatened by her realization that she is a character in the manuscript inside her purse. Though Cerda sometimes strikes notes of metaphysical dread reminiscent of Borges, she more often revels in an imaginative whimsy comparable in tone to that of Calvino. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 02/01/1997
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