October 6, 2011 by markstani
Today there was an enigmatic corpse on the TV: they cut off his head and he wasn’t even a king. It didn’t look like it was the work of the French either, who like cutting off heads so much. The French put their heads in a basket after cutting them off. They put a basket just under the king’s head in the guillotine. Then the French let the blade fall and the king’s head falls off and lands in the basket. That’s why I like the French so much, they’re so refined. As well as taking off the king’s crown so it doesn’t get dented, they take care that his head doesn’t roll away from them. Then the French give his head to some lady to make her cry. A queen or a princess or something like that. Pathetic.
Tochtli is seven years old. He lives with his father, Yolcaut, otherwise known as ‘The King’, in a heavily guarded compound somewhere in Mexico. Yocault is a drugs baron. Their only visitors are hit men, prostitutes and the occasional corrupt polician. Tochtli loves samurai, hats and dictionaries, and dreams of adding a rare Liberian pygmy hippopotamus to his private zoo. There’s a good chance he’ll get it, but at what price? The drug war is escalating, body parts are popping up on TV and the net is closing in on the increasingly paranoid Yolcaut. As the tension rises, it threatens to destroy Tochtli’s relationship with the one man he thought he could trust. The first novel by Mexican writer Juan Pablo Villalobos illustrates the absolute futility of materialism, and how a constant diet of guns and violence can corrupt young minds. It’s wild, chilling, touching and hilarious. At seventy pages it’s a slither of a novel, but Villalobos’ rich prose makes every word count double. It was selected for the shortlist of the 2011 Guardian First Book Award by readers’ nominations, and was published by the visionary, subscription-funded And Other Stories.