“‘Go and fuck your fucking mother, you bastard, fuck off!’ I know this isn’t an appropriate way to begin, but the story of me and my family is full of insults. If I’m really going to report everything that happened, I’m going to have to write down a whole load of mother-related insults. I swear there’s no other way to do it, because the story unfolded in the place where I was born and grew up, Lagos de Moreno, in Los Altos, Jalisco, a region that, to add insult to injury, is located in Mexico.”
Orestes is the second oldest of 7 siblings and their family is middle-class. All the children are named after Greek heroes or mythology. But Mexico in the 1980s is not politically stable which makes the family’s economy unstable. The result is that there are several variations of the daily quesadillas; inflationary quesadillas, normal quesadillas, devaluation quesadillas and poor man’s quesadillas.
Orestes is a poet, and loathes his older brother. One day during the curfew, the family needs to go shopping. And in the state owned grocery shop, the twins suddenly disappear. The parents are devastated, but Orestes sees this as an opportunity to get more quesadillas. Then his older brother, Aristotle, is convinced that aliens have kidnapped the twins and goes looking for them, dragging Orestes with him.
The second book by Villalobos is even better than the first. I fell in love with the family, and Orestes is a great narrator. Although the story is funny, the undertones are serious and the downgrade of the family is sad. I was about to get really upset about the end, but fortunately it turned out to be awesome. Juan Pablo Villalobos is an author I will definitely keep reading, and so should you.
“Some people say I’m precocious. They say it mainly because they think I know difficult words for a little boy. Some of the difficult words I know are: sordid, disastrous, immaculate, pathetic and devastating. There aren’t really many people who say I’m precocious. The problem is I don’t know that many people. I know maybe thirteen or fourteen people and four of them say I’m precocious.”
Tochtli is an only child, living with his father and some helpers in an enormous house far away from everyone. He has a private teacher that teaches him about the world. He collects hats and animals. His biggest wish is to get a Liberian pygmy hippopotamus.
Tochtli is starting to realise that something odd is going around in their house. Why are the four empty rooms in the house locked? And why is his father worried about the news showing corpses and body parts? And when he discovers that his father has been lying to him, he decides to go mute.
I laughed half-way through this book and then suddenly everything got very serious and I was close to tearing up. I spent a week getting through the 70-page long story, but it was because I wanted it to last. It is filled with humour and great sentences.
“When we run out of body parts we look up new ones in a book that has pictures of all of them, even the prostate and the medulla oblongata. Speaking of the brain, it’s important to take off your hat before you put bullets in somebody’s brain, so it doesn’t get stained. Blood is really hard to get out. This is what Itzpapalotl, the maid who does the cleaning in our palace, always says”.
This book is published by And Other Stories, which allows subscriptions for either 2 or 4 books a year. And after reading this book and having taken a look at the other books they have published, I will subscribe.