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Book Fest 2015: Mexican Writing, An Insider’s View with Gabriel Orozco

ByLene Korseberg

Aug 20, 2015

Photo: Enrique Badulescu

Tuesday, 18th August
Chaired by Gabriel Orozco
Panel: Sergio González Rodriguez and Juan Villoro
Garden Theatre


2015 is the Year of Mexico in the UK, and the Book Fest is celebrating the occasion with three events covering the entire spectrum of Mexican literature. Prior to this year’s festival, Director Nick Barley invited Mexican visual artist, Gabriel Orozco, to handpick authors from all parts of the Mexican literary scene. Monday 17th focused on fiction, with novelists Pablo Soler Frost and Eduardo Antonio Parra taking to the stage. Wednesday’s theme was poetry, and Orozco was joined by Mónica de la Torre, Julián Herbert, and Gabriela Jauregui to explore the experience of everyday Mexicans through their shared medium.

The Student was fortunate enough to be present at Tuesday’s event, which dealt with the art of essay writing. Joining Orozco in the Garden Theatre this afternoon was Sergio González Rodriguez, an essayist and novelist famous for putting focus on the violence against women in Mexico, and Juan Villoro, one of Mexico’s most diverse writers.

It is perhaps surprising that so little Mexican literature has made its way over here, considering the size of the country and the diversity of its cultural scene. As such, one of the main aims of the event series is to bring Mexican writing to the British public, and so everyone who entered the theatre was offered a book free of charge containing never-before translated Mexican texts.

The lack of knowledge about the Mexican literary scene may have to do with the fact that much of Mexico’s attention in global media tends to focus on its now infamous drug wars and the extremely high levels of violence perpetrating the country. And, perhaps not unsurprising, it was such topics that took the centre stage during this event as well. Rodriguez and Villoro, both working as journalists, have first-hand experience with this violence and they, together with other journalists and writers, risk their lives everyday to bring the reality of the situation to the world.

By sharing their own experiences and reflections on the current situation in Mexico, as well as telling the stories of writers much less fortunate than themselves, the panel gave the audience a unique insight into the life of people living and working in Mexico. The border with the United States, for many a source of both hope and despair, has undoubtedly left its mark on the country, and help shape its narrative.

One would perhaps imagine that working and writing in such an environment would have the effect of leaving Rodriguez and Villoro somewhat pessimistic for the future. However, I am happy to announce that this was not the case. Despite grieving for their country, they spoke of its beauty and potential in such a way as to move even the most cold-hearted audience member. From violence comes art, and from art comes great literature.

Villoro himself summed up this optimism rather beautifully: “If you know the Mexico inferno, you can dream of paradise like nobody else”.

By Lene Korseberg

Lene is former Culture Editor and Editor-in-Chief of The Student. She writes for Features and Culture.

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