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Archive for the ‘Mexican Literature’ Category

One of my favourite discoveries which happened last year was when I read Asja Bakić’sMars‘. I discovered that Bakić’s book was published by The Feminist Press. I was excited when I discovered that and went and checked their catalogue. It was amazing! I asked myself why I hadn’t heard of this beautiful publisher before. Of course, I just wanted to buy everything which was there in their catalogue. I resisted temptation and decided to get a few. ‘The Iliac Crest‘ by Cristina Rivera Garza was one of the books I got.

At the beginning of the story, the narrator is sitting in his home reading a book when he hears a knock at his door. He opens it and he sees an unknown, beautiful woman outside. She just walks into his house, without saying anything. The narrator is puzzled. After a while, there is a second knock, and the narrator’s ex-girlfriend walks in. She is wet because of the rain and she seems to be unwell. The stranger who came in before takes care of the ex-girlfriend and these two women settle down in the house, as if it is their own. The narrator is not able to say anything. He is gripped with fear. Before long, one day, the two women approach him and tell him that they know his deepest secret. The narrator wonders what that is. The strange woman says that they know that he is actually a woman! The narrator is stunned!

What happens after this – who is this strange woman, why is she here, is the secret about the narrator true, what happens after that – all these are told in the rest of the story.

Though the above is part of the story, this book is not about the plot. It raises important questions on the fluidity of gender, on the fluidity of national borders, on the fluid boundaries between madness and sanity. Who is a man and who is a woman, who is mad and who is sane – the book asks these questions and makes us think. This is not a book to be read once and enjoyed for the plot. It is a book to be read multiple times with close readings, a book to be lingered on, to be contemplated upon, to be discussed with fellow readers. I think I’ll read it again closely, one of these days.

Cristina Rivera Garza is one of Mexico’s great contemporary writers. I noticed that just three of her books are available in English translation. I hope to read the other two sometime.

I enjoyed reading ‘The Iliac Crest‘. It wasn’t a straightforward book and it was always challenging, and there was a surreal atmosphere throughout the book, but Cristina Rivera Garza’s prose was beautiful, her sentences sizzled with beautiful depth in many places which made me pause and linger on them, the dark humour in some places made me smile, and though I am not sure what happened in the end, I’m glad I read the book.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book.

“I had imagined a dwelling more crowded with things, more populated with history, more marked by time. But I don’t believe I was disappointed to see the apartment only had the furniture necessary for an austere existence, and that within the property, bordered by walls in neutral colors and lacking any kind of ornamentation, what was truly noteworthy were the currents of light and air. There was a sensation of impasse, of something held, not within time but somewhere outside of it, far from its shore, foreign to its imperial power. There, at her side, in her home, I felt as if I were inside a parenthesis in a sentence written in an unknown language.”

“My instincts advised me to do so without any hesitation, but in those days I acted fundamentally against myself. Contradiction drove me. Paradox gave me courage.”

“As soon as I looked inside, I was forced to accept that my absence had doubtlessly been longer than I had suspected. There was, in the space whose familiarity had once rendered it transparent, a mild untidiness, a faint but notable change in the way it reflected my inhabitance. The way it felt distanced from me. The furniture was in the same place, as was the opening of the fireplace that had helped me combat the coastal cold so many times, and also the curtainless windows that allowed all of the ocean’s potential to enter. The decorations were the same. There wasn’t a single change in the number or size of the lamps, paintings, or bookcases. I mean to say there was nothing physical that could explain the transformation I was experiencing. The change wasn’t there, outside of myself, but in the relationship I was establishing with the space. In other words, I did not recognize my own home. If I were talking about its structure, the sensation I felt could be described, perhaps, as discord. It made me feel out of place.”

Have you read ‘The Iliac Crest‘? What do you think about it?

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