Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bruno Estañol

Here is a writer who will transform your understanding of Mexico. Eduardo Jiménez's translation of Bruno Estañol's short story "Fata Morgana" appears in my anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. Would that all good Mexican writers had a translator as fine, as hardworking, and as dedicated as Eduardo Jiménez. And would that all translators could work with such languidly elegant and original writing as that of Bruno Estañol. Fortunately for us English language readers, Bruno Estañol: The Collected Fiction, translated from the Spanish and with a preface by Eduardo Jiménez, has just been published by Floricanto Press. Here's the jacket text:
The narratives collected in this volume are mainly set in the State of Tabasco, during the turbulent time period running from the Mexican Revolution to the late 1950’s. In one sense we’re dealing with a dreamy, genteel, picturesque — though somewhat atavistic — world, in which the paddlewheel steamboat remains the preferred means of long-distance transportation, in which the townswomen wear ruffled organdy or tulle dresses while daintily promenading, parasols in hand, around the town square; where couples, young and old, dance on Sunday afternoons to the elegant melodies of pasodobles, danzones, tangos or boleros; and where the finest merchandise, ranging from the mundane to the exotic, arrives daily to the various commercial ports along the Tabascan coast, having been shipped there from the metropolises of New Orleans and Havana. On the other hand, it may also be a horrific, hostile and harsh world, where fierce tropical storms arise without warning, claiming the lives and fortunes of unsuspecting townspeople; where the jungle and the wild creatures within it habitually menace the fragile and vulnerable human civilizations erected in their midst; where frontier-style administration of law and order continuously makes a mockery of justice; and where the more talented and gifted individuals often find themselves molested or marginalized, trapped in a life of boredom, monotony, indolence and ennui. Occasionally, the author takes us to places outside the realm of tropical Mexico, staging some of his stories in New England, Germany, England, India, Palestine and Paris; yet he always remains faithful to his penchant for exposing both the beautiful and the sinister sides of humanity, while concurrently manifesting a keen sense of humor. Estañol’s skeptical, ironical and slightly philosophical brand of humor resonates with the work of such fellow Latin American writers as Juan José Arreola, Jorge Luis Borges, and Ernesto Sábato.