Hectic Ethics

Francisco Hinojosa, Francisco, Author, Kurt Hollander, Translator City Lights Books $9.95 (104p) ISBN 978-0-87286-347-7
Known as the Mexican Brother Grimm, Hinojosa is internationally recognized for his children's fairy tales (The Old Lady Who Ate People). This collection offers eight of his brief experimental fables for adults contending with the absurdities of 20th-century life. Despite their contemporary aspect, the characters here--a self-centered artist, wicked children who maim and murder, warring condo owners, even a fickle God besotted with Shirley Temple--have a universal resonance. All of them are as naive and as overwhelmed by the cockeyed world they inhabit as the protagonists of a traditional fairy tale. Unlike, say, Hansel and Gretel, however, they tend to make matters worse for themselves by responding with the improvisational ethics of the title. Hinojosa's experiments (random patterns of capitalization; incessant references to historical personalities; a story consisting of only one half of a dialogue; a story in the form of a numbered list) have apparently turned the Mexican literary establishment on its ear, but they may not appeal as much to U.S. readers. Nonetheless, this a spirited and amusing book. In a new version of the creation story, God, bored by a regime of ""loneliness and silence"" he has impetuously imposed, grows desperate to hear anything: ""he'd even be content with a poetry reading."" In another tale, an artist confesses a tryst to his wife because he had ""always believed that women can tell when a man has slept with an actress."" The translation is generally solid, especially given the challenges of experimental fiction. One hopes that more of Hinojosa's grown-up fables will be made available in English. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/2001
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