Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

jueves, febrero 16, 2012

Beauty Salon

Mario Bellatin

I just read in one sitting Mario Bellatin's 2000 novella Salon de belleza (Beauty Salon). It's very short (64 small pages), terse, disquieting. And brilliant.

The short, outline version: a man opens a beauty salon in which he and his friends dress as women and cut women's hair. He collects tropical fish to create a glamorous atmosphere for his customers. At night he dresses up as a woman and cruises the city with his friends. Over time, those who are suffering from the plague (is it HIV? is it something else more mysterious? is it the Black Plague?) transform the beauty parlor into "The Terminal," the place where the "guests," who are afflicted by the disease, live out what remains of their lives. The fish suffer as well. In other words, he creates a surreal hospice. Read the book. There's more; the precis doesn't exhaust it.

Mario Bellatin lives and writes in Mexico. And his work is intriguing, but not widely known in the US. The Wiki is a little too facile:

While he has participated in writing workshops around the United States, his work is very little known in the English-speaking world. Bellatin is celebrated as a leading voice in Spanish fiction for his experimental and fragmented writing, which artfully intertwines reality and creation. As a result of a birth defect that left him missing much of his right arm, a good portion of his fiction concerns characters that are deformed or diseased or with an uncertain sexual identity. Bellatin was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "To me literature is a game, a search for ways to break through borders. But in my work the rules of the game are always obvious, the guts are exposed, and you can see what is being cooked up.”

The guts really are exposed, and you can see what's being cooked up. Excellent writing.

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