Mexican Authors Offer Insight into their Rich Literary Landscape

In the first of three events, the Edinburgh International Book Festival offered an insight into the little-known world of Mexican literature when it invited two of its best exponents to discuss their work.  Pablo Soler Frost and Eduardo Antonio Parra joined Gabriel Orozco, a hugely successful international artist in his own right, to give an insider’s view on the rich literary landscape of Mexico.

Parra, a novelist, short-story writer and essayist, is known for his portrayals of life in the north of the country along the border with the US, portraying the violence, in both domestic lives and across the country, mixed with tenderness and kindness using a precise and considered expression. In his books, he said “there are no happy endings.”

Frost, a poet and novelist, based in Mexico City, explores strange and unusual ideas that straddle continents, creating worlds in which Aztec vampires exist, and using language that mixes street Spanish with its formal version.

Orozco told the audience that since the 1990s, in the wake of the devastating Mexico City earthquake of 1985 which killed more than 10,000 people and the economic collapse, saw a break with the previous literary tradition.  Where before it had been heavily influenced by the single state political institution, he said, writers were now “more independent” in their expression, writing about whatever they wanted, creating the fertile literary landscape that exists now.

Frost, who lived close to Mexico City, said that the earthquake had a profound effect on him and his work.   “The city was destroyed, and with it a certain image of Mexico, as a monolithic pillar,” he said. “With it came the possibility to be a bit more like the little bird we wanted to be, like the insect we wanted to be, and not the ant or the bee that the state not only wanted you to be but forced you to be.”

Both writers said that the still-evolving nature of Spanish in Mexico, a language that was only introduced 500 years ago, meant that people were finding fresh forms of expression.

Parra emphasised the importance of finding poetic expression in his writing. He said: “We know that we do not have that many readers, and that our culture of reading is not huge. We need to constantly conquer that small group of readers with the pleasure of reading and how difficult it is to maintain the pleasure of reading when you are writing about violence and very cruel things, but this is the challenge: attracting with the poetic, we can tell the most horrible stories.”

Gabriel Orozco speaks with novelist and essayist Sergio González Rodríguez and Juan Villaro on Tuesday 18 August and with poets Mónica de la Torre, Julián Herbert and Gabriela Jauregui on Wednesday 19 August.  Full details of all the Mexican Writing, An Insider’s View with Gabriel Orozco can be found at


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