Quesadillas – Juan Pablo Villalobos

This novel is the second by the Mexican author Juan Pablo Villalobos, who has been described as narco-literature author. This novel is similar in many ways to magical-realism whilst keeping the sense of the narco-literature with which Villalobos is associated with. Narco-literature is a fairly new Mexican literary phenomenon which attempts to portray the modern realities of Mexican life, however in Quesadillas Villalobos mixes this with some surreal imagery to create an incredibly intriguing tale of poverty. Quesadillas

Quesadillas is narrated by our teenage protagonist, Orestes, who, like all seven of his siblings, has been named by his father after a Greek personality. The novel tells a number of stories about the family, and covers many aspects of Mexican life. We embark on our journey with a fantastic description of his father, ‘a professional insulter’,  this then leads on quite swiftly to a the possibility of electoral fraud. This opening gambit is the chance for the narrator to discuss quesadilla rationing; the fillings of the quesadillas chances depending on their economic situation, and the overall economic situation of Mexico.

Orestes narrates a story that happened many years before, allowing himself to rant and rave about his own upbringing. When two of Orestes’ siblings disappear a sequence of believable yet increasingly intriguing situations occur. This novel is extremely funny, but does this comedy mask a something more sinister? I would surmise that it does. We can never be sure that the stories told are true; firstly as we cannot trust Orestes’ memory, and secondly as he is re-telling what a 13 year old child saw. I think throughout this novel the most important thing is circumstance.


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