This month’s Library Scavenger Hunt challenge was to read a book in translation, and I knew immediately what I was going to look for. 🙂 A couple of years back I managed to find the time to attend the Oxford Literary Festival, and in their massive ticket office/bookshop, there was a table of & Other Stories (a small company that translates and publishes literary novels from around the world) books on three-for-two. Naturally, there ended up being four books I was interested in, and I had to leave one behind – but I’ve been wanting to read it ever since, and this challenge was the perfect opportunity! It was…
SIGNS PRECEDING THE END OF THE WORLD
Signs Preceding the End of the World is a short but powerful novel about a young Mexican woman, Makina, who crosses the border to the US illegally in order to deliver a message from her mother to her brother, who crossed several years earlier on what seemed to Makina to be a fool’s errand, and never returned home.
For being so short, this book packs a surprising amount of punch: the characters are well-developed and relatable, the plot – though quite simple in structure – is interesting, and there’s enough meditation on the nature of borders and crossings (not only physical ones, like the border between countries, but also the barriers that people create in their heads) to be thought-provoking, but not so much that it makes the book drag. The writing is also really beautiful, full of unusual but striking imagery; I can’t speak for Herrera’s writing directly, as I don’t speak Spanish, but Lisa Dillman’s translation was wonderful to read.
The story has something of a lonely feel to it, but there are some heartwarming moments mixed in as well – I particularly enjoyed Makina’s eventual reunion with her brother – and all in all, I found this book really enjoyable.
[Find out more about the Library Scavenger Hunt by following this link!]