Faces in the crowd by Valeria Luiselli

Faces in the crowd by Valeria Luiselli

Mexican Fiction

Translator Christina Macsweeney

Valeria Luiselli is young Mexican writer she lives in New york and has had pieces published in New york times and Letras Libres .She has a degree in Philosophy .She is due to appear at this year Hay festival .

Faces in crowd is her first book to be translated to english .This is a little gem .A women now in middle of marriage and looking after kids decides one day to write the story of her early life when she worked in New york ,this in turns leads to the story of an older mexican poet that also lived in New york in the 1920’s one Gilberto Owens  he is a partly forgotten member of the Harlem Renaissance so we meet a second story with in the first of the narrators life then she imagines a life of Gilberto Owen as he seems to seep into her world as she sees him on the subway appearing to her .She also imagines Owens life and how he was both friend and enemies  with the famous poet Frederico Garcia Lorca On top of that we she the Narrators marriage maybe isn’t the best already a feel of how it is to be young and a student and them starting on the job ladder in New york in this case in the publishing industry .

The obscure Mexican poet became ,in time the new Bolano or ,rather a new Neruda .But that day ,while I was reading an article in the NYRB ,neither white nor I knew what would happen about Owen .I tried to call the Office once more when I d finished reading the article but nobody answered .I took a long hot bath .

Past and present mix so well in this novel .


Valeria has done a wonderful job managing  all this in just 150 pages shows why Valeria Luiselli is considered one of the hottest talents in Latin American writing having cut her teeth in Essay writing you can see how see has used the essay writing skills to produce a tight precise piece of prose I was reminded of how Bolano mostly wrote about poets that said mostly fictional and how Valeria had made Owen feel real in a much shorter novel than Bolano did in some of huge novels .That said Owens was a real person you can view his Wiki page here  so Valeria probably had a lot of historical data to work from .This book is about memories the narrator memories so rather like Julian Barnes booker winning book you see how some times in hindsight things get muddled in this case it is the distant past and the early part of the twentieth century merge into one .

We aim that sky
collapsed before us, dark green.
Those who passed were far off
? shadow puppets
on the screen of twilight?
our shadows on other worlds.

The sky truly
was, outside prison,
and peeked between the trees, watching us
with his eye of the moon, hollow.
A star, the only trembled
without light in our souls.

And if we closed our eyes
we heard, platonic,
like a bee buzzing
music of the spheres.

This is a poem from Gilberto Owen translated via google translate from the site poemasde.net .I think even thou it is a rough translation it shows Owens beauty and why he was chosen to be remembered by Valeria .Yet again showing the talent that is coming from Mexico in the last few years it was nice t read a female voice from the region for once .

Do you have a favourite Mexican writer ?


May 2012


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