Sunday, 5 January 2014

hypothermia [alvaro enrigue]

Enrigue’s quasi-novel is a smart, cold stab at puncturing the balloon of globalisation. A series of delicately connected short stories range across the Americas, from Peru to Washington DC, related by a succession of first person narrators. Through a process of osmosis the text skips from Lima to North Carolina, from DC to DF. Many of the stories address the issues surrounding the word ‘gringo’, (which might have made for an alternative title), as the narrator, more often than not a Mexican male, adapts to life in the US. How many years, the book seems to ask, does it take for a Mexican living in the States to transform himself into a gringo?

This globalised vision is constructed from small, domestic tales of loss or betrayal. There are stories about affairs, about domestic tragedy, about blue-collar life. Some of the stories are less than a page long, others developed in far greater depth. It’s never made overtly clear when a story will connect with another – there’s a touch of Cortazar’s Hopscotch in the way the book skips, elliptically, between its various narrative threads. Hypothermia is a pot-pourri of modern life. Albeit one that seems, perhaps, more adept at pinpointing the zones of contemporary tension than getting under their skin. Another point of reference might be Iñárritu and Arriaga’s artful global fable, Babel. Both texts suggesting that Mexico, a country on the hinge of first and third worlds, makes for an ideal vantage point from which to observe the contradictions of modernity, where the poor want what the rich have and the rich are never sure what price they have paid in the obtaining of their wealth…or how much it costs to obtain the things the poor still possess which they no longer have. 

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