Book Notes: Jorge Volpi’s Criminal Novel, I

For decades, the way that Latin American writers wrote about the tragic realities of their countries – the dictatorships, the violence, the crime, the corruption – was to cutesify them in a way that would make these horrors palatable and entertaining for foreign readers. This way of writing was called “magical realism,” and it soon spread to other third-world regions. Writers from desperately poor countries would compete as to who’d depict their tragic reality in the most cutesy, funky, and quirky way.

Finally, though, it seems like Latin American authors are ready to move on and stop exoticising the suffering that exists in their countries. Jorge Volpi’s recent La novela criminal is an example of a very different way of writing about Latin America. Volpi narrates the story of outrageous police misconduct, corruption, criminality and torture in today’s Mexico without the coy “well, this is just how we are” of the magic-realists. Volpi believes that it is a disgrace that Mexico should have such a ridiculously corrupt criminal justice system, and he doesn’t conceal his rage against the indignities of life in Mexico.

[To be continued…]

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