Signs preceding the end of the world by Yuri Herrera

Signs Preceding the End of the World_CMYK SMALL

Signs Preceding the end of the world by Yuri Herrera

Mexican fiction

Original title – Señales que precederán al fin del mundo

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source – Review copy

My trip through last years books that could make the Man booker longlist has hit one I eel fits the old IFFP mould an issue novel as Tony and I have been saying the last few years, but this is a clever take on an issue by one of the rising stars of Mexican writing Yuri Herrera. This is his second novel and has already been translated into a number of other languages . This is his first book in English.

Slippery bitch of a city, she said to herself. Always about to sink back into the cellar

This was the first time the earth’s insanity had affected her. The little town was riddled with bullet holes and tunnels bored by five centuries of voracious silver lust, and from time to time some poor soul accidentally discovered just what a half-assed job they’d done of covering them over. A few houses had already been sent packing to the underworld, as had a soccer pitch and half empty school. these things always happen to someone else, until they happen to you, she thought. She had a quick peek over the precipice, empathized with the poor soul on his way to hell. Happy trails, she said without irony, and then muttered Best be on with my errand

Makina on way to get her errands to go North for her Brother.

Signs preceding the end of the world follows a journey that happens a hundred times a day and that is the migrant journey between Mexico and United States. What Yuri has done here is taken the location away from the story and just told the story through the person and people involved Makina a young woman who has a dual purpose for being on the journey. personal and for the underworld  That is to find her brother and bring him back down south but also deliver messages from the underworld via Mr Double- U ( love that name almost like a Trantino name ) in her small town and her own mother as they want the brother to return. Makina makes this journey that is well trodden but through her eyes we see a strange world of odd towns and weird rivers as she heads north, how do you see snow when you see it for the first time ?

When she reached the top of the saddle between the two mountains it began to snow. Makina had never seen snow before and the first thing that struck her as she stopped to watch the weightless crystals raining down was that something was burning. One came to perch on her eyelashes: it looked like a stack of crosses or the map of a palace, a solid and intricate marvel at any rate, and when it dissolved a few seconds later she wondered how it was some things in the world – some countries, some people could see eternal when everything was actually like that miniature ice palace:

Snow for the first time also the way it has a myth like nature to Herrera’s prose.


This is a book I read twice, Herrrera has taken a fresh way at looking at makina journey and that is make it feel like an odssey , make her journey feel like a myth like a classic quest as she tries to get north. I was reminded of when I read Paz years ago how he viewed Mexico as a labyrinth of myths and history and this takes this and also clashes this past with the neighbour to the north the bright shining lights of US and there modern myths that have taken Makina’s brother and now she is having to go there as well. This is how we see migrants through  there eyes Makina could be anyone from around the world she could be a sister on the back of a lorry entering The uk , or a sister walking the tracks into Europe  or on a boat. Herrera has made Makina an everyone more than just a small village girl.

Have you a favourite Migrant story ?


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. roughghosts
    Mar 01, 2016 @ 17:34:14

    This is such a wonderful translation – and a story more timely in light of the bizarre politics being spouted by a certain candidate for the GOP in my neighbour to the south. (I read this, btw, as a quick cleanse in the midst of reading IFFP titles last year.)

    As for migrant stories though, it’s Sebald’s The Emigrants for me, hands down.


  2. Max Cairnduff
    Mar 01, 2016 @ 17:40:46

    I plan to read this fairly soon and am really looking forward to it. The prose just seems so immediate. The quotes jump off the page.


  3. JacquiWine
    Mar 01, 2016 @ 19:26:41

    I’ve heard so many good things about this one. It sounds like a shoo-in for the longlist.


  4. A Little Blog of Books
    Mar 01, 2016 @ 20:08:14

    I have yet to read any Mexican fiction and will be looking out for this one even if it isn’t on the MBIP longlist next week. In terms of migrant stories, I enjoyed reading The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota last year.


  5. 1streading
    Mar 02, 2016 @ 20:28:36

    This surely has to be on the longlist! It does deal with an important issue, but, as you say, in a way that is not in the least preachy. At times it almost felt like I was reading fantasy in terms of the way the story is told.


  6. Tony
    Mar 07, 2016 @ 07:01:21

    Still want to read this 🙂


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  12. whisperinggums
    Dec 03, 2017 @ 12:40:41

    I finally read this a few months ago, and I loved it Stu. I bought it when I was visiting the US in the middle of the year, and as we lived in Southern California for three years in the early 1990s, this issue has always been of interest to me.

    And I have read many migrant books. It’s a whole subgenre here in Australia – as it is probably in the UK? Some are novels, some memoirs, but I’m pleased to see more and more being published. However among the most powerful migration books I read this year was Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko about Koreans in Japan, and Sara Dowse’s As the lonely fly about Russian Jews in Palestine/Israel. Both books look at the issue over two or three generations, from the early twentieth century.


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March 2016


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