November 6, 2018: What I’m Reading
I’m getting into the habit of reading a lot of translated fiction. Some of it, fairly dark.
The best of these books, to date, has been a recently published stand-alone novella called The Hole. It’s about three prison inmates who find themselves set apart from the general population. They have a plan to get heroin smuggled into them. The plan, possibly doomed from inception, goes awry. Along the way, however, the reader is treated to a delicious banquet of transgressive, misanthropic, neuron-tingling, hallucinatory and–at times–darkly hilarious prose.
The back cover synopsis tries to pitch The Hole as “an ominous parable about deformed and wretched institutions creating even more deformed and wretched individuals”. Honestly, though, I think that pitch does the book a disservice. Certainly Revueltas (1914-1976) was a political dissident. But this novella is far more sophisticated than a parable. It’s far too honest about the messy truth of human nature to be a parable.
Is there a political subtext? Perhaps. There seems to be a bit of one tacked on to the end. But it’s overshadowed by Revueltas’ rich, anti-didactic characterizations, and by the unique atmosphere of the prison (a place of unstable identities, where one group of people easily morph into another).
Well worth purchasing.