Literary wetback

servin.JPG Given how much raw material there is on the streets of Mexico City, and how many novelists make it their home, it is surprising how few of them use the place as content, backdrop or subtext to their narratives. One possible reason is that most of the city's authors are from privileged backgrounds and of too delicate a temperament to have prowled the city with much dedication.

A notable exception is J.M. Servín, who takes a gritty view-from-the-sidewalk approach in his fiction. His novel Cuartos para gente sola (Rooms for Singles) culminates in a street brawl between a desperate man and a dog that has been trained to battle other canines. (The book was published in 1999, two years before the release of the film Amores perros, parts of which were also set in a dog-fighting milieu.) In 2007, Servín published Al final del vacío (At the End of the Void), a post-apocalyptic novel set in a near-future Mexico City. In his not exactly overheated imagination, the streets are full of demolished buildings, citizens can only go to the bathroom in public conveyances, and the streets are controlled by adolescent delinquents known as Dingos.

My favorite of his books is Por amor al dólar (For Love of the Dollar), his memoir of the years he spent as an illegal immigrant working in gas stations, restaurant kitchens and as a diabolical baby-sitter in the New York tri-state area. The tone of the book is bitingly funny, with a nihilistic sensibility along the lines of Celine. A word to editors and literary scouts: Given how hot a topic illegal immigration is, I cannot believe this one hasn't been picked up for translation.