A review of Ignacio Padilla's Antipodes
Mexican author and former diplomat Ignacio Padilla is part of a young literary movement called Crack, which aims to bury the easy allure of magic realism and show that Latin American writing can be intellectually demanding. His first short-story collection to be published in English is certainly that. In 12 very brief tales, Padilla explores the manias and conceits of 19th-century travellers and adventurers. A Scottish engineer is lost in the Gobi desert, his hallucinations of Waverley station and Edinburgh castle turning the Kirghiz into his devoted disciples. A French hermit holes up in a Libyan cave, taunting his devils with intellectual parlour games. "Heroes in our time are unpardonably doomed to be almost absurd figures," one of Padilla's narrators reflects. His band of egotistical eccentrics is ample proof of the sentiment. It's a shame that the colour of their lives is compressed into doses so small they are virtually opaque.
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