Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic

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Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic. Eduardo Jiménez Mayo & Chris N. Brown, eds. Easthampton, Mass. Small Beer Press. 2011. isbn 9781931520317

Since the publication in 1912 of its first tale of the fantastic, "La cena" by Alfonso Reyes, Mexican fiction has been enriched by hundreds of increasingly sophisticated tales in this mode. Almost all of these stories have remained untranslated into English, until now. So bravo, Small Beer Press and editors Mayo and Brown, for bringing us Three Messages and a Warning, a landmark collection of the Mexican fantastic.

To sample the flavor of this collection, let's try out a few entrées. Opening the book almost at random, we light upon Donají Olmedo's "The Stone," a vignette narrated by an oak tree in which "you" and "you's" erstwhile lover, Francisco, apparently turn to stone. Nearby we find Guillermo Samperio's "Mr. Strogoff," a single, three-page-long sentence fragment constructed from rumors about possible vengeance from beyond the grave. Then "Mannequin," a harrowing poem by Esther M. Garcia. Other fare include Alberto Chimal's "Variation on a Theme of Coleridge," an irresolute encounter between a man and himself as he was a year previously; the unforgettable "Wolves" by José Luis Zárate, in which a "blizzard of wolves, thousands, millions" inexplicably descend from the mountains and transform forever the inhabitants of a village in their path; and Carmen Rioja's "The Nahual Offering," a veritable maze of overlapping dreams that manipulate time to devastating effect by juxtaposing an ancient ritual against the depredations wrought by urbanization.

This sampler suffices to indicate the main features of this collection. First, its contents are "stories" only in the loosest sense of the word. …