cover image Last Date in El Zapotal

Last Date in El Zapotal

Mateo García Elizondo, trans. from the Spanish by Robin Myers. Charco, $16.95 trade paper (164p) ISBN 978-1-913867-84-3

García Elizondo pays homage to Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo in his stunning English-language debut about a heroin addict who arrives in a near-deserted Mexican village to die there. Haunted by memories of friends who’ve died, including a lover who overdosed after he introduced her to heroin, the unnamed narrator is determined to report on “what dying feels like, because no one sticks around to tell the tale.” Stuck in literal and spiritual limbo among the lowlife denizens of El Zapotal, he searches for the mysterious Juan, said to be the Devil; gambles with fellow addicts who seem not entirely human; learns about a buried treasure from a dying man who may be a hallucination or a ghost; and meets a young girl who can sense the dead. Is he still alive, or is he literally a lost soul looking for the door to the other side? Is there a difference? This existential novella packs weighty themes of damnation, deliverance, and nihilism into its slim page count. It has the incantatory power of a prayer, but whether the narrator’s final passage will take him to God or Satan matters little to him (“We can negotiate that part,” he muses, “after the rush”). This has the feel of an instant classic. (June)