In recent interviews Juan Villoro has hinted that his next novel would be “very crazy,” and he has lived up to his promise. “Arrecife “gives us a cast of colorful characters who inhabit La Piramide, a tourist resort in the tropics:
- a former rock musician from Mexico City (Tony)
- an expatriate “americana” from Iowa (Sandra)
- an absentee hotel boss (el Gringo Peterson)
The lives of each character are carefully detailed throughout a text that never abandons the reader. At times these are accompanied by wit and humor: Tony with desperate bedroom eyes for Sandra but the coquettish “americana” is more interested in finding out why he is missing a finger. The story also humanizes the least likely character: “el gringo Peterson.” He is hardly present and yet we know so much about him: growing up in Vermont, his infant son drowning in a lake, his regret at not going to Vietnam, where he lost many of his friends or his weakness for horse races.
La Piramide, with more than 400 rooms, is also a character, perhaps the most vilified of all. Like all other such massive buildings constructed with an unrestrained development, it have polluted an environment that would otherwise be a paradise: sandy beaches, endless blue skies and clear waters.
The novel has offering for multiple American audiences, to the fans of “Hawaii Five-O,” (in its original and current versions), “Arrecife” is already a familiar text and the conscious eco-tourist will welcome the social commentary on the negative impact of over-development.
A text so full of references to American popular culture and geography should have wide appeal to a broad reader audience. This may be Villoro’s first full-length work to be translated into English, but he is already familiar to American audiences. Here’s sample of some of his writings:
*The essay “The Red Carpet: Gangsters as Superstars” http://nplusonemag.com/thered-carpet
*A fragment from “El testigo” http://quarterlyconversation.com/notes-on-juan-villoroel-testigo
“Arrecife” is eagerly in search of a translator, the readers are desperately waiting