Friday, January 26, 2007

Book Review: The Uncomfortable Dead, by Subcomandante Marcos & Paco I. Taibo II

Two years ago, the masked, pipe-smoking leader of the Zapatista army — Subcomandante Marcos — sent a hand-carried proposal from his jungle headquarters to one of his favorite writers. “El Sup,” as Marcos is called by his admirers, invited Paco Ignacio Taibo II, an internationally celebrated crime-fiction writer, to co-author a mystery novel. But not just a run-of-the-mill whodunit. This one would be written pingpong style, each writer pursuing his own storyline without consultation and the two bound together only by the promise that their respective protagonists would meet up about two-thirds of the way through the book.

Taibo, a devilishly provocative literary anarchist who relishes spurning the cultural establishment, immediately agreed. Within weeks, the chapters came cascading out and started appearing in serial form, as a work in progress, inside the pages of Mexico City’s leftist daily La Jornada (which experienced a 20 percent growth in its Sunday readership as a result). Now translated into English, The Uncomfortable Dead reads as an uproarious, dizzying, purposefully incoherent plunge into the multiple ironies, absurdities and injustices of present-day Mexico.
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