Daniel Saldaña París's debut novel (published in 2013, before his 30th birthday), Among Strange Victims, heralds yet another distinctive, promising voice in Spanish-language literature. The first of Saldaña París's books to appear in English translation, Among Strange Victims is an anti-bildungsroman picaresque starring mid/late-twentysomething Rodrigo, a remarkably sketched protagonist who'd perhaps more closely resemble a ne'er-do-well were it not for his somehow charming philosophy of resignation, renunciation, and repudiation — a sort of post-capitalistic, ineffectual, millennial Bartleby.
Montesorri-educated Rodrigo, seemingly content to espy the empty lot beside his apartment (and the enigmatic hen that resides therein), collect already-steeped tea bags, and essentially live an ascetic life (much to the chagrin of his mother), nonetheless sees the world as it is, and, resultingly, wants and expects for naught. When he unwittingly marries his coworker Cecilia, little changes for him. Rodrigo's fortunes shift (or not), however, after losing his job and leaving Mexico City for his maternally populated hometown.
Among Strange Victims doesn't dwell in lassitude or indolence, treated as we are to the story of a lost boxer-poet, an aesthetic philosopher set on writing the definitive biography of said enigma, and a has-been psychedelic itinerant hippie gringo con who, using the urine of his young female acolyte companion as catalyst, leads group meditation with the aim of deducing art trends of the future. Saldaña París's tale never strays into the surreal, though our young hero does encounter many a preposterous moment (such is his fate).
Shifting styles, Saldaña París's (debut!) novel works best when narrated by Rodrigo's first person account, though the third person portions show that what goes on within Rodrigo's exterior world is perhaps no less bizarre than what lies within. An imperfect outing, Among Strange Victims is nevertheless a fun, playful, weird, ambitious, imaginative, and impressive work. Saldaña París writes with a gifted and confident prose that is as much the star of this singular novel as its unforgettable characters and delighting plot. This young Mexican writer (and poet, too) is surely one to watch and if Among Strange Victims is but a harbinger of what's to come, then Saldaña París may well have a long, fruitful, and fantastic career ahead of himself. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Rodrigo likes his vacant lot, its resident chicken, and being left alone. But when passivity finds him accidentally married to Cecilia, he trades Mexico City for the sun-bleached desolation of his hometown and domestic life with Cecilia for the debauched company of a poet, a philosopher, and Micaela, whose allure includes the promise of time travel. Earthy, playful, and sly, Among Strange Victims is a psychedelic ode to the pleasures of not measuring up.
"Critics have drawn comparisons between París’s latest novel (his first to be translated in the United States) and the work of his blockbuster predecessor, Roberto Bolaño." Brooklyn Magazine
"In an easygoing, oddly entrancing style, París presents a meandering plot...but the events of the narrative pale in comparison to the surprising pleasure of the thoroughly offbeat prose....París has mastered the art of spinning an outlandish, entertaining tale." Booklist
"Saldaña París’s first novel to be translated Stateside is a leisurely story of slacking off that’s nicely conveyed in a sharp, cynical tone....Read this messy, shaggy picaresque for its ample page-by-page pleasures, which include devilishly clever syntax, a charming tendency to digress, and satisfying flashes of Rodrigo and Marcelo getting their act together." Publishers Weekly
"Full of odd twists and surprises. Among the high points are Saldaña París’ exasperated but affectionate paeans to ‘the immense, beautiful city’ that is Mexico’s capital. Though a study of slothfulness and its discontents, a welcome book on which the author has clearly expended energy." Kirkus Reviews
"His tools are brilliant syntax, the ability to achieve highly powerful, recurrent images, a set of relationships between the plot strands that are more than a forced structure, and humor, a corrosive humor that never leads to laughter, but is present in every phrase of the book, charged with relentless sardonic irony." Factorcritico
About the Author
Daniel Saldaña París (born Mexico City, 1984) is an essayist, poet and novelist whose work has been translated into English, French, and Swedish and anthologized, most recently in Mexico20: New Voices, Old Traditions
, published in the UK by Pushkin Press. Among Strange Victims is his first novel to appear in the US. He lives in Montreal.
Christina MacSweeney has an MA in literary translation from the University of East Anglia and specializes in Latin American fiction. She has also translated Valeria Luisellis novels, Faces in the Crowd and The Story of My Teeth, and essay collection, Sidewalks.