Saturday, December 8, 2012
Fiction: Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos
Translator: Rosalind Harvey
Date: 2010 (trans. 2011)
Source: World Literature Today Book Club
Read: for the WLT Book Club
Reading time: an hour and a half
From GoodReads: Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines, and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants, and the odd corrupt politician or two. Long-listed for The Guardian First Book Award, Down the Rabbit Hole, a masterful and darkly comic first novel, is the chronicle of a delirious journey to grant a child’s wish.
My review: I loved Tochtli's voice. His exact age is unclear, but his precocious, quirky means of expression makes this novella a success. His observations are darkly humorous without his meaning it, because he is an attentive child who doesn't quite yet understand the workings of life within a drug cartel. I wish this novella was longer not because it felt incomplete, but because I wanted to continue reading Villalobos's brilliant writing. It's difficult to make a work simultaneously comic and devastating, but in this case the author manages to do so quite successfully.