I'll Sell You a Dog
Juan Pablo Villalobos
Humour, according to Juan Pablo Villalobos, is 'a weapon against power'. It was this principal that animated the Mexican writer's widely acclaimed first two novels, Down the Rabbit Hole and Quesadillas. But it's in his latest release, I'll Sell You a Dog, that it finds its epitome.
The novel is told from the perspective of Teo, a former taco vendor who spends his retirement ruminating on the absurdities of life with his own brand of wry surrealism. Teo's is the final story in a loose trilogy which explores the parlous state of contemporary Mexico, this time from the standpoint of old age.
The narrative leaps back and forth through a lifetime of vignettes, juxtaposing the comparative optimism of innocence with a wizened experience that has long known what they put in the tacos. Whether shattering the pretensions of his neighbours' literary clique with his trusty copy of Adorno or remembering the troubled genius of an artist long forgotten by everybody else, Villalobos' unconventional hero has seen it all and learned not to take anything seriously.
Yet the insouciance of the protagonist shouldn't be confused for that of the author; this a book of ideas and of invective. Dealing with corruption, Mexico's 'desaparecidos' (the 'disappeared') and the revolutionary potential of mythology, Villalobos' mordant humour has a clear political target. But just as importantly, it also has you grinning like a skull.
Out now, published by & Other Stories, RRP £10