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Beauty Salonby Mario Bellatin
Synopses & Reviews
"Like much of Mr. Bellatin’s work, Beauty Salon is pithy, allegorical and profoundly disturbing, with a plot that evokes The Plague by Camus or Blindness by José Saramago."--New York Times
"Including a few details that may linger uncomfortably with the reader for a long time, this is contemporary naturalism as disturbing as it gets."--Booklist
A strange plague appears in a large city. Rejected by family and friends, some of the sick have nowhere to finish out their days until a hair stylist decides to offer refuge. He ends up converting his beauty shop, which he’s filled with tanks of exotic fish, into a sort of medieval hospice. As his “guests” continue to arrive and to die, his isolation becomes more and more complete in this dream-hazy parable by one of Mexico’s cutting-edge literary stars.
Mario Bellatin, the author of numerous short novels, was born in Mexico City in 1960. In 2000, Beauty Salon was nominated for the Médicis Prize for best novel translated into French. This is its first translation into English.
"An extremely slender, sad tale by Bellatn recounts a gay man's reflections on the waning days of sexual excess and the specter of death wrought by AIDS, though here AIDS is a mysterious, nameless plague. Formerly a stylist in a beauty salon in an unnamed city, the narrator, a transvestite, has now transformed the salon into the Terminal, 'where people who have nowhere to die end their days.' The Terminal has become a kind of hospice for dying gay men, the hair dryers and armchairs sold to buy cots and a cooker, the mirrors removed to avoid 'multiplying the suffering.' The manager keeps exotic fish in aquariums, which he keenly observes as an allegory of what's happening in the larger world: as symptoms of the sickness become apparent on his own body, he notices a fungus growing on the angelfish that fatally infects the others. The narrator's brutal reasoning renders Bellatn's tale an unflinching allegory on death." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Beauty Salon, by Mexican novelist Mario Bellatín, originally published in Spanish in 1999 and now out from City Lights Books in a translation by Kurt Hollander, is short. A mere 63 pages, which is good, because its density requires multiple re-reads—and in that curious inversion of fiction, the less the author says, the more expansive the story's meaning becomes. . . His book itself is a place—contained and at times claustrophobic—like the beauty salon refuge, like the suffocating aquariums. And in it, despite its spare style, lives a dense story that leaves a reader unsettled, and unsettlingly intrigued." - Shawna Yang Ryan, The Rumpus
"Beauty Salon, by Mexican novelist Mario Bellatín, originally published in Spanish in 1999 and now out from City Lights Books in a translation by Kurt Hollander, is short. A mere 63 pages, which is good, because its density requires multiple re-reads — and in that curious inversion of fiction, the less the author says, the more expansive the story's meaning becomes. . . His book itself is a place — contained and at times claustrophobic — like the beauty salon refuge, like the suffocating aquariums. And in it, despite its spare style, lives a dense story that leaves a reader unsettled, and unsettlingly intrigued." - Shawna Yang Ryan, The Rumpus
"In his first work translated into English, Mexican short-novelist Bellatin presents the testimony of a hairstylist who turns his successful big-city salon into a refuge for men dying of an incurable disease. . . . Including a few details that may linger uncomfortably with the reader for a long time, this is contemporary naturalism as disturbing as it gets." - Ray Olson, Booklist
"Like much of Mr. Bellatin’s work, Beauty Salon is pithy, allegorical and profoundly disturbing, with a plot that evokes The Plague by Camus or Blindness by José Saramago. In an unnamed city that is suffering from an unnamed epidemic a transvestite hairdresser has turned his shop into a hospice for men dying of the disease, caring for them as indifferently as he tends to the fish he houses in aquariums that are his sole diversion. Many of Mr. Bellatin’s novels, Beauty Salon and Shiki Nagaoka included, focus on characters whose bodies are deformed, disfigured or diseased or whose sexual identity is uncertain or fluid. That is one reason Ms. Palaversich, who wrote the introduction to a recent Spanish-language compendium of Mr. Bellatin’s work, compares him not to other Latin American writers but to filmmakers like David Cronenberg and David Lynch and painters like Frida Kahlo." - Larry Rohter, The New York Times
"Some authors take time creating an overall feel for their book. But when you're writing a novella of well under 100 pages, you don't have much time to set the tone. Mexican novelist Mario Bellatin doesn’t waste any establishing the tenor of Beauty Salon. He does it with the first two sentences: 'A few years ago my interest in aquariums led me to decorate by beauty salon with colored fish. Now that the salon has become the Terminal, where people who have nowhere to die end their days, it’s been very hard on me to see the fish disappear.' . . . Bellatin’s description of the world is blunt and brutal." - Tom Gebhart, Blogcritics
"Reading Beauty Salon one is very much in the presence of a man who knows what he believes and tries to consciously put that forth to the reader, and trying to work out just what this is--and why he believe this--constitutes the book's primary interest . . . Beauty Salon is, like the fish tanks described within, a small, closed environment, although the paths that can be taken through it are many." - Scott Esposito, Conversational Reading
"The bleak, rapid-fire sentences of Mexican writer Mario Bellatín's Beauty Salon give the spare novella an airless hyper-immediacy—and a terrible, unstoppable momentum. . . Bellatín’s tale exists outside an ethical conversation. Rather than pose moralistic questions, he sets about elegantly illuminating the book’s epigraph, a quotation from the equally efficient Yasunari Kawabata: 'Anything inhumane becomes human over time.' In a few haunting pages, Bellatín makes this piercingly clear." —Megan Doll, Bookforum.com
"Mexican writer Mario Bellatin has created a rare literary feat: in just 63 pages he has produced a novella that sparkles with beauty and clarity as it delves into one of the most horrifying and shunned diseases of our times—AIDS. . . . Written in simple sentences that flow effortlessly without the interruptions of chapters, Beauty Salon is a lyrical piece about how a disease is turning its victims into pariahs, and as a result has made our society less human. Mario Bellatin had the courage to write about this taboo in a country that is known for its homophobia, and in return he was rewarded with a little book of deep beauty." —Literal. Latin American Voices
"Bellatin’s fiction is very fresh and invigorating... With his pared down style and conscious experimentation in prose, Bellatin shows an affinity to the Nouveau Roman and its focus on objects rather than the traditional elements of the novel. Bellatin seeks to portray fragments of experience rather than a coherent world. Characters aren’t defined by descriptions, but remain only as emotionally-charged glimmers in the narrator’s memory. ... The effect of this is disconcerting and strangely moving..." --Eric Karl Anderson, Chroma
"Imagine a salon that becomes 'the Terminal,' a surreal yet all too real refuge for strangers 'who have nowhere else to die.' I'm still haunted by the narrative voice and the aquariums. (You'll have to read it to find out about them.)" — Robert Gray, Shelf Awareness
“[This] strange and beautiful parable about human bodies living and dying on the fringes of society . . . prompts us to consider our collective attitudes toward, and treatment of, the human body — in illness, in death, in poverty, and in opposition to dominant conceptions of sexual behavior. . . . [Bellatin provides] a model for dying, and for living; for treating the abject body with honesty and respect, despite its difference and decay — perhaps because of it.” — Maggie Riggs, Words Without Borders
“In a sparse style, the short novel Beauty Salon . . . relates the story of a mysterious illness that plagues an unidentified city. . . . The seemingly simple tale offers a complex network of motifs, symbols and paradoxes. The aquariums that adorn the beauty salon, for instance, become the barometer of the advancing plague: like the ‘strong young men who had once been beauty queens and then disappear with their bodies destroyed,’ the beautiful fish die in the aquariums and are flushed down the toilet. Similarly, once he contracts the plague, the narrator asserts: 'I feel like a fish covered in fungus from whom even its natural predators will flee.' . . . Despite its brevity, Beauty Salon stands to linger in the aquariums of our memories, at times, like the monstrous axolotls, revealing the ugliness of the world, at others, like the mystic golden carp, providing hope for a better tomorrow.” — Eduardo Febles, The Gay and Lesbian Review
Biting social allegory from one of Mexico's most exciting young authors, edgy, lyrical, cynically hopeful.
Fiction. Translated from the Spanish by Kurt Hollander. A strange plague appears in a large city. Rejected by family and friends, some of the sick have nowhere to finish out their days until a hair stylist decides to offer refuge. He ends up converting his beauty shop, which he's filled with tanks of exotic fish, into a sort of medieval hospice. As his "guests" continue to arrive and to die, his isolation becomes more and more complete in this dream-hazy parable by one of Mexico's cutting-edge literary stars. "Like much of Mr. Bellatin's work, BEAUTY SALON is pithy, allegorical and profoundly disturbing, with a plot that evokes The Plague by Camus or Blindness by Jose Saramago"--New York Times.
About the Author
Mario Bellatin was born in Mexico City in 1960 and studied film in Cuba. From there he moved to Peru where his literary work was introduced and began to gain fame, and various of his works were brought to the screen. After returning to Mexico, he received high praise in his own country as well, homages to his talent as a singular and risk-taking storyteller. He is the author of the short novels Mujeres de Sal, Canon Perpetuo, Efecto Invernadero, Damas Chinas, and Poeta Ciego. Salon de Belleza (BEAUTY SALON) was released in 1999 and received huge praise and wide recognition.
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