Literature and Violence: let’s talk about it

Writing about violence is not a new topic in literature. But it became a recurrent subject after the Second World War when the writers used it to talk about the horrors of war, to expose the evil in mankind and to set a reminder of the fragility of peace. It became and stayed popular because violence , more than any other topic, has the power to shock.

For many, violence is an unescapable reality, to others it also comes with a window for creative writing that gives way to new legends, myths, heroes and anti-heroes.

As years passed by, Mexican society has been deeply touched and transformed by the increasing violence as a result of conflicts between drug cartels and police. The impact of this situation in every day life has touched the imagination of contemporary authors, perhaps as a natural reaction to cope with the unstable current situation.

 The publication in 1999 of Un asesino solitario  by Élmer Mendoza got the critics’ attention about this fascinating subject.  Few years later the flow continued with El amante de Janis Joplin (2001) and the award-winning Balas de Plata (2008).

But not only Mendoza captured the sometimes bizarre world of drug trafficking in his novels. The younger and upcoming generation did it too with remarkable and original novels such as Los trabajos del reino (2004) by Yuri Herrera, to be published in the UK under the label of Faber and Faber. Also, the famous blogger Bernardo Fernández (aka BEF) won the Otra Vuelta de Tuerca award with the extraordinary Tiempo de alacranes (2005).  Later on, Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez shocked his readers with El hombre sin cabeza(2009) a mesmerizing journalistic essay on violence surrounding Mexican drug cartels. And as recent as 2010 Juan Pablo Villalobos touched this world under the innocent view of a child in Fiesta en la madrigueraa tragic and funny novel also soon to be published in September the UK by And Other Stories.

These are just a few examples of some of the authors who have touched the subject and who provide the reader with a vast range of points of views and unforgettable characters who question their reality perhaps in the same way a nation demands for answers and solutions to stop the violence.

In my opinion these so-called narco novelas are becoming movement of great literature which I hope leave a mark in the nation’s literary history. For that reason they should be read. They matter. Talking about violence in Mexico matters.