México en el tiempo de la rabia. Arte y literatura de la guerra, el dolor y la violencia (2006-2018)
Editors: Alejandro Zamora, Gustavo Ogarrio
Publisher: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos
The six articles and introduction contained in this book explore two important aspects of contemporary Mexico: on one hand, they consider the art, literature, documentary films and narrative journalism produced during and in response to the so-called “war on organized crime” (2006-2018); and on the other, they analyze some of the historical and cultural conditions in which that “war” has occurred, and which, at the same time, have been generated by it.
Signs Preceding the End of the World
Author: Yuri Herrera
Translator: Lisa Dillman
Publisher: And Other Stories Press
It would be hard to find a contemporary Mexican novel that offers a more subversive allegory of US-Mexican relations than Yuri Herrera’s novel Signs Preceding the End of the World (2015). This short novel, whose surreal tone has given rise to comparisons to Pedro Páramo, constitutes a kind of inversion of the traditional US borderlands chronicle that demonizes the Mexican other: here, we have a borderland tale told from the Mexican perspective, where it is the United States that represents the infernal mirror.
The Book of Life
Director: Jorge Gutiérrez
Studio: Reel FX/20th Century Fox
Mexico/United States, 2014
Review by Martin Boyd
In a previous review for this Forum, I’ve already made mention of the dearth of Mexican family films for those parents who want their children exposed to Mexican culture and to break the Disney monotony that young viewers are subjected to almost daily. Indeed, the Hollywood monopoly on movie production for children is so severe that we are left with no other option than to search for representations of Mexican culture in US cinema itself. Notable among the few positive representations of Mexico in Hollywood cinema is The Book of Life, an animated film by Mexican director Jorge Gutiérrez, produced with the support of Guillermo del Toro, one of the most prominent Mexican filmmakers of recent years.
Álex Perea in Zurdo
Director: Carlos Salcés
Studio: Altavista Films
Review by Martin Boyd
A series of internationally successful Mexican films over the past twenty years has led critics to speak of a Nuevo Cine Mexicano (“New Mexican Cinema”), a resurgence in Mexico’s film industry after decades of decline. With filmmakers like Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro as some of its most outstanding representatives, the movement is characterized by its dark overtones, with themes related to violence (Amores Perros), the drug trade (Rudo y Cursi), sexuality (Y tu mamá también) and the frankly grotesque (Pan’s Labyrinth), themes that are all quite popular in the world of arthouse cinema, but that don’t leave much room for the production of family films. In this context, a film like Zurdo, by Mexico City director Carlos Salces, whose protagonist is an 11-year-old with a skill for playing marbles, seems like a ray of light in the darkness for parents who want their children to see a little Mexican cinema to break up the Disney monotony. Unfortunately, in spite of many points in its favour, in the end Zurdo falls prey to the same fascination for bleak themes from which so many films of the Nuevo Cine Mexicano seem to suffer, and thus disqualifies itself as an ideal film for the whole family to enjoy.
Young, Well-Educated and Adaptable: Chilean Exiles in Ontario and Quebec, 1973-2010
Author: Francis Peddie
Publisher: University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg, 2014
Review by Martin Boyd
The Spanish-speaking community is now one of Canada’s largest minority language communities. According to the 2012 national census, there are 441,000 native Spanish speakers in the country, making it Canada’s second most widely spoken minority language. Because it has grown so rapidly – from almost nothing a mere 50 years ago to its considerable size today – Hispanic Canadian history is a field still very much in its infancy. Fortunately, however, it is a field that is beginning to attract the attention of historians like Francis Peddie, whose examination of the experiences of Chilean exiles – a group of extreme importance to the establishment of this country’s Spanish-speaking community – constitutes a valuable contribution to the library of Canada’s multicultural history.
The Time In Between
Author: María Dueñas
Translator: Daniel Hahn
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
New York, 2009
Review by Carla Martínez
Synopsis: The young seamstress Sira Quiroga leaves Madrid in the tumultuous months prior to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, driven by her passionate love for a man she barely knows. Together they settle in Tangier, a wild, vibrant and exotic city where anything can happen… including betrayal and abandonment by the person in whom she placed all her trust. The Time In Between is a passionate adventure in which high-fashion dressmaking, glamourous hotels, political conspiracies and sinister secret service missions are all fused together in a story of loyalty to the ones we love and the irrepressible power of love.
The Conscious Musician
Author: Paulina Derbez
Publisher: Editorial Ink, Mexico City, 2014
Review by Karin Otterbach
“The Conscious Musician is a stunning book, destined to change the perception of music teaching held by parents, teachers and students completely.” – Jorge Volpi
As the writer Jorge Volpi suggests in his prologue to the book, The Conscious Musician is an extraordinary book that offers a completely new approach to music teaching. The book, written by Mexican violnist and music teacher Paulina Derbez, points out various problems that arise in day-to-day music practice and offers the reader practical and effective solutions for enjoyable and tension-free playing.
Desde el norte. Narrativa canadiense contemporánea
Editor: Martha B. Bátiz Zuk
Publisher: UAM-Xochimilco, México, 2015
Review by Roberto García Bonilla
Canadian culture possesses a richness barely known in Mexico. Canada —like Mexico— is part of “North America”, although it is common practice to use this name to refer only to the United States of America. Indeed, it is even possible to hear it used this way by senior officials in Latin America, including certain heads of state.
Author: Martha Bátiz Zuk
Publisher: Terranova Editores
Santo Domingo, 2014
Review by Néstor E. Rodríguez
In “Writing Short Stories”, one of the few essays rescued from the personal writings of Flannery O’Connor after her death in 1964, the American writer defines the story as “a dramatic event that involves a person, because he is a person, and a particular person—that is, because he shares in the general human condition and in some specific human situation.” O’Connor’s comments on the art of writing stories are enlightening for an analysis of the superb short story collection De tránsito(2014), by Mexican-Canadian writer Martha Bátiz, recently published by the Puerto Rican publisher Terranova.
The House of Impossible Loves
Author: Cristina López Barrio
Translator: Lisa Carter
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review by Carla Martínez
Synopsis: “The Laguna women have borne a terrible curse for as long back as the family lineage can be traced: all have suffered from lovesickness and have given birth only to daughters who perpetuate their cruel inheritance. But when, after decades of forbidden passions and tragic loves, the first male Laguna is born, a door of hope opens up. Could this be the end of the curse?”