“Signs Preceding the End of the World” by Yuri Herrera

It is sort of a puzzle and also a lyrical piece. In the sense of world statement, it’s a dark, futuristic view of an immigration apocalypse.

Unlike a lot of fiction here in the American Age of Super Realism, it does not make things so abundantly clear and  in your face. Instead the story coaxes the reader and invites involvement, as a poem does.

The main character is a brave woman named Makina, who is sent to carry an underworld package in exchange for finding her brother.  She is brave and lusty and intuitive and at the same time green and naive for never having traveled.

“When she reached the top of the saddle between the two mountains it began to snow. Makina had never seen snow before and the first thing that struck her as she stopped to watch the weightless crystals raining down was that something was burning.”

The tightly written novella describes her journey into the land of Anglos and how alien the world appears to her. She has trepidatious episodes, and in the end we are left to figure what has exactly happened to her.  No place names are used, which makes the reading minimal and fresh.

PS- You have to work with the English translation a bit on this one. The fact that the translator ends the book with an eight-page explanation of how hard her job was, reinforces how awkward the translation can be in places.  Perhaps the Spanish original is highly colloquial with street talk.  I have yet to come to terms with “verse” as a frequently employed verb for walking or leaving (is it a chopped street version of “transverse”? But no, that’s not Spanish.) And then the mystical and dire end place where Makina goes is marked at the door with “Verse,” so we are further perplexed.