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Deep Vellum

Juan Rulfo’s <br><i>The Golden Cockerel and Other Writings</i>

Juan Rulfo’s
The Golden Cockerel and Other Writings

Reviewed by Henry Zhang

To read the translator’s note for Juan Rulfo’s The Golden Cockerel and Other Stories is, in a sense, to witness border politics in action. The translator, Douglas J Weatherford, says: “A desire to capture both the universal and the regional qualities of The Golden Cockerel is at the heart of my decision to retain a modest selection of words and phrases in their original Spanish. A few of those are simply left untranslated and in regular type (e.g., pesos, tequila, cerveza, amigo), an indication that these are labels that are commonly known to English speakers in the US. Other expressions that are left untranslated are italicized to indicate their less common nature (e.g. mezcal, politico, rebozo). These are words and phrases that have a significant cultural component, are problematic in translation, or add a local flavor.” It is implied that everything else might be rendered in English without much violence. But to see these three types of words—italicized, unitalicized but markedly Mexican, and, might we say, naturalized?—is to witness different stages in a process of cultural assimilation...

Bae Suah’s <i>A Greater Music</i> & <i>Recitation</i>

Bae Suah’s A Greater Music & Recitation

Reviewed by Rosie Clarke

“I am afraid that the moment I cast off the garb of a poor, powerless, unidentified ‘city-dweller,’ I will become a refugee, stripped of my citizenship, with no idea of the direction I should take.” This perhaps best captures what drives the intense anxiety at the heart of A Greater Music and Recitation, Bae Suah’s two most recent works in Deborah Smith’s exceptional translation. It is an anxiety specific to a particular demographic: urban residents with an excess of options, and a deficit of purpose. Those who rely on their city to provide validation, when in fact the city is utterly ambivalent to human life; standing as a product of humanity’s creation, but providing no reason for humanity’s existence...

Carmen Boullosa’s <br><i>Before</i>

Carmen Boullosa’s
Before

Review by Anna Zalokostas

Taking place somewhere between the worlds of the living and the dead, between dream life and waking life, between what is real and what is imagined, Carmen Boullosa’s early novel Before meets the everyday with bewilderment. In this dream world of childhood, realism is nothing short of an act of magic; the supernatural suffuses the ordinary. Ghosts speak, a wardrobe transforms drawings into physical objects, the kitchen scissors breathe heavily under a bed pillow, a turtle bleeds, a petticoat is marked with stigmata, an embroidery needle pierces the maid’s hand without producing a speck of blood. And a young girl hears strange noises at night—footsteps that keep pursuing her, closing in on her in the dark . . .