Skip to main content

Review: Aura Xilonen's The Gringo Champion, Samanta Schweblin's Fever Dream and Carleigh Baker's Bad Endings

The Gringo Champion

By Aura Xilonen, translated by Andrea Rosenberg

Europa Editions, 320 pages, $23

Story continues below advertisement

Those familiar with Campeon gabacho in Aura Xilonen's original Spanish note its baroque style: Liborio, the teenage street-fighter narrator who at the novel's beginning works in a Spanish-language bookshop, eats a dictionary to understand poetry and spits out his words most often to cuss. Andrea Rosenberg's translation should be praised for rising to the challenge of invention: The Gringo Champion is, too, a Jabberwocky creation of slang, nonce and portmanteaux – meaning derived from words' mouthfeel as much as anything else. The scrappy vernacular is to match Liborio's story: an undocumented immigrant fleeing violence and abuse in Mexico, his short life thus far has been a series of beatings and scrapes, his time in the United States navigated between xenophobia and exploitation, hunted by immigration officers. Translated two years after its original publication in Mexico, The Gringo Champion arrives when it is urgently needed, its central question – whether Liborio can find stability amid circumstances that force him into perpetual fight or flight – of pressing political concern.

Fever Dream

By Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell

Riverhead, 192 pages, $34

Shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize for fiction in translation (which will be awarded later this month), Argentine writer Samanta Schweblin's debut novel has been categorized as environmental horror. Fever Dream opens in a country hospital in the aftermath of something gone terribly wrong, although it's not immediately clear what. Amanda, on holiday in the rural community with her young daughter, Nina, lies in bed dying while a strange, imperious child, David, questions her. In the dialogue that follows, Amanda recounts what she knows of David's experience with "the worms." Meanwhile, David interrogates Amanda's story, which she tells using her concept of "the rescue distance": how close she must keep to her daughter to sweep up Nina in the case of danger. But where is Nina? The nature of Fever Dream's horror is that even when the cause is specified (agricultural chemicals), the danger is diffuse. What is the rescue distance when the poison is in the water, the air, might be the very thing used to grow your food?

Bad Endings

By Carleigh Baker

Story continues below advertisement

Anvil Press, 166 pages, $18

What would it mean to create an aesthetic around making things awkward? In last year's Awkward Politics, two feminist scholars invited readers to consider awkwardness as a means to understand so much 21st-century activism. Bad Endings, Carleigh Baker's debut collection of stories, feels as if it's on a similar wavelength, expressed in fiction. Being cheesy, engaging in inappropriate liaisons, squandering deathbed proclamations, making white people uncomfortable: It's awkward, but why is it awkward? Baker pushes readers to reconsider their desire for resolution. Eschewing the easy, the neat, the smoothed over, allows us to consider the things about ourselves we might not like. There's a political dimension to this. One thread running through this book is the threat of environmental collapse – drought, massive bee death, dwindling salmon stock – and humans' awkward interventions. Baker, who is Cree-Métis/Icelandic and was raised on Sto:lo territory, writes about the West Coast as an informed guest, a keen observer of contradiction and its implications.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter