Among Strange Victims by Daniel Saldaña Paris

among strange victims

Rodrigo is a cynical, twenty-something writer contentedly shuffling through life when an unexpected development takes him from his commonplace job at a museum in Mexico City into a rural college town. Indifferent to things like emotional connections and career ambitions, Rodrigo finds meaning only in the most ordinary details of his everyday life, like the chicken in the vacant lot next to his apartment, which “begins to have pathological importance in relation to [his] daily routine.” As the title implies, this novel contains a strange cast of characters: Rodrigo, passive and hyper self-aware; the misogynist academics he finds in his company; and the various female characters who are unimpressive and defined only by what they provide to these self-important men. I don’t think any of the characters are meant to be admirable/likable. Amidst Paris’s rhetorical musings, time travel, and tequila-fueled antics, the story is an unflattering glance into the human ego.

“I don’t seek the permission of the Fates to find a soul mate with whom to deploy my melancholy; I can be alone, really alone, but I do ask the god of neural functions to let me retain this faint line of voice that crosses my cranium, allowing me to laugh at the world around me.”

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The Circuit by Francisco Jiménez

circuit

One of my favorite reads of this year, The Circuit is a short novel that introduces readers to the life of a child migrant worker from Mexico. Jiménez writes from the perspective of his childhood self, free from judgment or analysis. The language is simple and clear. For Panchito, living in a tent with his family of five is just the norm, but losing his marble collection is the ultimate tragedy. It’s a beautifully written story of growing up in a transient world where family comes first and life fits into a cardboard box. I read this book in one sitting (because it’s both short and hard to put down). The original Spanish version is Cajas de Cartón.