The Transmigration of Bodies and Signs Preceding the End of the World
Two astonishing novellas, by 'Mexico's greatest novelist', in one volume. Hilarious and horrifying, Yuri Herrera's The Transmigration of Bodies is a gritty, feverish novella, written in dazzling prose that is both bawdy and poetic. A plague has brought death to the city. Two feuding crime families with blood on their hands need our hard-boiled hero, The Redeemer, to broker peace. Both his instincts and the vacant streets warn him to stay indoors, but The Redeemer ventures out into the city's underbelly to arrange for the exchange of the bodies they hold hostage. Lust and crime and a lack of condoms all feature in this brilliant novella about living in a city filled with the dead, and where no one can distinguish between the guilty and the innocent. A response to the violence of contemporary Mexico, with echoes of Romeo and Juliet, Roberto Bolano and Raymond Chandler, The Transmigration of Bodies is a noir tragedy and a tribute to those bodies-loved, sanctified and defiled-that violent crime has touched. Signs Preceding the End of the World is a masterpiece, haunting and arresting, spare and poetic, a condensed epic about immigration. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there's no going back. Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world. Leaving behind her life in Mexico to search for her brother, she is smuggled into the USA carrying a pair of secret messages-one from her mother and one from the Mexican underworld.
'Bracingly unbookish...The after-effect is more like that of a video game or Marvel comic, with both the brightness and unabashed flatness those entail. Darkly satisfying...A darkly satisfying tale.' Guardian 'A novella in nine dramatic acts loaded with images, moments suspended in time that evolve into an extended dream, or rather a cautionary tale...The author of playful, prophetic, unnerving books that deserve to be read several times, with dialogue so telling it eats into your brain rather like the worm in the Redeemer's preferred mescal, Herrera is a writer for our doomed epoch.' Irish Times 'Herrera's brilliantly surreal turns of phrase mirror the strangeness of the world: he knows that brutal everyday truths are best revealed through dreams. Blood-soaked, driven deep and expertly written.' Spectator 'Herrera combines lyricism with wry, black humour and employs a range of registers, colloquialisms and neologisms...In extraordinary prose he creates stark landscapes and surreal scenarios which remain with you long after the final pages...A major new talent.' Huffington Post 'Yuri Herrera's tiny, beautiful novels each conjure myth and metaphor from a contemporary experience in a precise location, transformed by archaic-colloquial prose.' Times Literary Supplement 'A wondrous mash-up of styles which works solely and splendidly due to Herrera's sureness of touch.' New Internationalist 'As with many great and weighty storytellers, it's hard to avoid oxymorons while describing Herrera's achievements. His stories have the impact and ambition of epics but clock in at around 100 pages. The Transmigration of Bodies has gravity and insight, as well as historical and literary allusions, which override the zeitgeist and suggest something mythical.' Big Issue 'Herrera's prose is beyond hard-boiled: it's baked dry by the unrelenting desert sun, then picked clean by vultures.' Boston Review 'In the vein of Frank Miller's tale of crime and underworld, Sin City, and tinged with classic, yet ironic, Shakespearian tragedy.' Electric Literature 'Herrera switches rapidly between the tropes of screwball comedy, hard-boiled thriller, apocalyptic fiction, and existential tragedy...There's plenty to admire about this allegorical vision of a country under lockdown, where violence and death have ceased to be the motors for fiction, instead becoming the backdrop of everyday life.' Bookforum
Born in Actopan, Mexico, in 1970, Yuri Herrera studied Politics in Mexico, Creative Writing in El Paso and took his PhD in literature at Berkeley. His first novel to appear in English, Signs Preceding the End of the World, was published to critical acclaim in 2015 and included in many Best-of-Year lists. He is currently teaching at the University of Tulane, in New Orleans.