In this charming coming-of-age story, 15-year-old Carlos’s unrequited love for a much older woman serves as the tragic metaphor for American consumerism as it clashes with traditional Mexican culture of the 1940s. Pacheco’s prose is sweet and nostalgic, but not lacking in directness. The afterword by Fernanda Melchor is a brilliant addition to this classic work.
This heart-breaking novella is a key work of 20th-century dystopian Mexican literature and sadly all too apropos today
This landmark novella—one of the central texts of Mexican literature, is eerily relevant to our current dark times—offers a child’s-eye view of a society beset by dictators, disease, and natural disasters, set in “the year of polio, foot-and-mouth disease, floods.” A middle-class boy grows up in a world of children aping adults (mock wars at recess pit Arabs against Jews), where a child’s left to ponder “how many evils and catastrophes we have yet to witness.” When Carlos laments the cruelty and corruption, the evils of a vicious class system, his older brother answers: “So what, we are living up to our ears in shit anyway under Miguel Alemán’s regime,” with “the face of El Senor Presidente everywhere: incessant, private abuse.” Sound familiar?
Woven into this coming-of-age saga is the terribly intense love Carlos cherishes for his friend’s young mother, which has the effect of driving the general cruelties further under the reader’s skin. The acclaimed translator Katherine Silver has greatly revised her original translation, enlivening afresh this remarkable work.
About the Author
José Emilio Pacheco (1939-2014) is one of Mexico’s foremost poets, novelists, and essayists. A lifelong resident of Mexico City, Pacheco has been a guest lecturer throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain. Some of Pacheco’s best known collections of poetry include Miro la tierra (which documented the Mexico City earthquake), El reposo del fuego, Fin de siglo y otros poemas, Arbol entere dos muros/Tree between two walls, and Selected Poems. His No me preguntas cómo pasa el tiempo was awarded Mexico’s National Poetry Prize.
Katherine Silver's award-winning translations include works by María Sonia Cristoff, Daniel Sada, César Aira, Julio Cortázar, Juan Carlos Onetti, and Julio Ramón Ribeyro. The author of Echo Under Story, she does volunteer interpreting for asylum seekers.
An exceptional poet of daily life, impeccable. — USA TODAY
His work is universal, part of the eternal glory of literature. — Carlos Fuentes
An intensely felt vision of life: abruptly we realize we have been led—almost trapped—into thoughtfulness. Mr. Pacheco has said he cannot believe his work could be of interest to anyone outside of Mexico City. True, his work is not an export commodity—precisely why it is worth exporting. — New York Times Book Review
This coming-of-age story, originally published in 1981, explores the intensity of childhood passion even as it mourns the passing of a version of Mexico City subsumed by the tidal wave of consumer-based globalism. A fresh translation of this classic of 20th-century Mexican literature, ready for a new audience to savor. — Kirkus (starred review)
What may be the most beloved fictional work to a nation of 130 million people. Battles in the Desert—recently reissued by New Directions to honor the fortieth anniversary of its first publication in Spanish—plays in Mexican culture a role similar to Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in the United States. Everybody has read it.