In The Nation is “Dispatches from the Front: On Narconovellas“, a profile of the burgeoning narconovella literary genre in Mexico. It’s amazing that The Nation published this, given that (in reading between the lines of the novels’ premises) one quickly gleans just how thoroughly the narco cartels run virtually all of life in Mexico:

During the last ten years, narconovelas have flooded the bookstores, sparking interest among Mexican readers and foreign critics in a new strain of Latin American exoticism and displacing magic realism as the region’s characteristic genre. In these books, Mexico is portrayed as a violent, uncontrollable and fantastic world in contrast to the West, which consumes drugs without suffering or being scarred by the violence of the trade.

A few examples: in El vuelo (The Flight, 2008), Sergio González Rodríguez combines the detective novel with the supernatural; in A wevo, padrino (Hell Yes, Godfather, 2008), Mario González Suárez transcribes the delirious interior monologue of a thug immersed in the narco world; in Al otro lado (On the Other Side, 2008), Heriberto Yépez turns to science fiction to describe living conditions along the border, with its myriad cholos, “immigrants,” narcos and hit men; in Conducir un tráiler (Driving a Trailer, 2008), Rogelio Guedea delves into a northern Mexico devastated by drug trafficking by means of a story of family revenge; in Malasuerte en Tijuana (Bad Luck in Tijuana, 2009), Hilario Peña uses a Sinaloa detective to dramatize the dangers of life on the border; and in Tijuana: crimen y olvido (Tijuana: Crime and Oblivion, 2010), Luis Humberto Croswaithe turns to the “nonfiction novel” to denounce the murder of two journalists.

These and other books created a world that transcended stereotypes and became a paradigm repeated incessantly in novels, TV serials and films: a universe dominated by danger, death and the unforeseeable, a world of pathetic heroes and villains increasingly hard to tell apart—poor adolescents who become professional killers; beautiful young girls used as a medium of exchange; gunmen killing one another for no reason other than to fill an existential void; clumsy, ill-paid cops, almost always corrupt; and, of course, a few narco bosses transformed into multimillionaires, notable for their outsize eccentricities. These were new romances of chivalry in which no one knows what he’s fighting for; where, as the corrido says, “life is worth nothing”; where acts of heroism are extreme and rare; and where staying alive past 30 is a kind of victory.

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