cover image I Don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me

I Don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me

Juan Pablo Villalobos, trans from the Spanish by Daniel Hahn. And Other Stories, $17.95 trade paper (356p) ISBN 978-1-911508-48-9

Villalobos (I’ll Sell You a Dog) mixes academia and organized crime in this fast-paced, irreverent tale. The narrator, named Juan Pablo Villalobos, is a Mexican graduate student in literature about to fly to Barcelona on a scholarship to work on his dissertation about humor in Latin American literature. After a gangster kidnaps him at a bookstore and takes him to a basement, Juan Pablo is tied to a chair next to his cousin, a petty criminal named Projects. The kidnappers tell Juan Pablo he must go to Barcelona and seduce the daughter of a dirty politician, or else they will kill his father. Juan Pablo reluctantly accepts, but there are many unforeseen troubles once he lands in Barcelona. Villalobos switches between the registers of the criminal underworld and the ivory tower with ease—on one page, mobsters spit insults at each other; on the next, the narrator discusses an essay by Gayle Rubin and Judith Butler about sexuality and technology. Villalobos’s strange narrative is intellectually nimble, wildly entertaining, and undeniably filthy, with many scenes of debauchery juxtaposed against thoughtful diary entries from Juan Pablo’s girlfriend and meditations on the work of writers, all ably translated by Hahn. This thriller has substance and a comedic heart, and is well worth diving into. [em](May) [/em]