The Hole

José Revueltas, trans. from the Spanish by Amanda Hopkinson and Sophie Hughes. New Directions, $12.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2778-0
This dark, disturbing, and powerful novel from Revueltas—who wrote it while imprisoned as a political dissident in Mexico’s infamous Lecumberri prison—tells the story of three prisoners trying to smuggle heroin into their prison. Unfolding in a cascading single paragraph that captures the progression of the plan in real time, the story opens with Polonio looking out through a small hole in his cell, awaiting the arrival of three women with his two cellmates, Albino and the Prick. One of the women is the Prick’s mother, who has the drugs hidden in her person. The other two women—Polonio’s girlfriend, La Chata, and Albino’s girlfriend, Meche—are younger and are to distract everyone while the mother hands over the heroin—at least that’s the plan. What happens instead is that everything goes wrong, the dissolution of the doomed plan comprising the book’s nightmarish and unforgettable ending. The book is packed with memorable lines and sensory observations. The Prick’s addiction is described as “a faceless white angel leading him by the hand through rivers of blood”; at one point, Polonio’s jealousy is so overwhelming that he feels “a kind of incapacity for existing in his own space”; Albino has a hypnotizing stomach tattoo of a copulating couple that he can activate with his muscles. Revueltas’s short novel has the force of a tidal wave. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/22/2018
Release date: 10/30/2018
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