Mexico City’s “Bukowski”

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Just one last quote here from First Stop in the New World, and then I promise to stop exhorting you to read the book. This passage concerns an author I hadn’t heard of, Guillermo Fadanelli, “whose novels and stories have been described by critics here as dirty realism. (He tends to respond to that designation by claiming he only practices it in bed, not in literature.) Akin to a Bukowski-type figure, noted for the posses of teenybopper fans who accompany him to cantinas, Fadanelli’s highly readable novels are set in an instantly recognizable Mexico City, mostly in neighborhoods of dingy housing projects, cheap hotel rooms, and Chinese-Mexican cafeterias whose patrons linger forever over a single cup of coffee.”

Lida continues:

His books are populated by pedantic professors and petty bureaucrats, unloved prostitutes, submissive garbagemen, and drug-addled girls from well-to-do families who get their kicks from going to bed with strangers for money. … His most successful novel — it’s been translated into French, Italian, Portuguese, and German — is called La otra cara de Rock Hudson, and is mostly set in the centro histórico. The story of a teenager’s relationship with a petty gangster, the texture of the prose demonstrates Fadanelli’s innate romanticism and the influence of the nineteenth-century poètes maudits.

The young protagonist likes to sit on a street with a view of Calle Bolivar, described as “full of craters and tumors, spitting acid odors from the sewers, inside of which stewed the dozens of dogs run over by cars every day.” In the same panorama are “hunchbacked buildings, tattooed with religious imagery, painted with shrieking colors that the passage of time turned into a gray like lead, like the cement of the sidewalks, like the skin of rats.” As with Henry Miller’s Paris or Paul Bowles’s Morocco, these are the sort of descriptions that can be appreciated equally by people who know those streets intimately and by others who have never seen them.

The sad thing is that his books appear not to have been translated into English yet; Goodreads, at least, only displays a bibliography in Spanish. (Unfortunately, this isn’t surprising; even the unmistakably great Daniel Sada is just now beginning to appear in English translation.) But for those who can read Spanish, in the appendix Lida recommends the above-quoted book and two others: Compraré un rifle and ¿Te veré en el desayuno?


Jeremy Hatch is a writer, musician, and professional bookseller leading a cheerful, aimless life in San Francisco. He is the Junior Literary Editor of the Rumpus and has a blog which he updates once in a while. More from this author →