Fernanda Melchor – Hurricane Season

In 1950 Octavio Paz wrote about “a magical word” with “innumerable meanings” in Mexican culture. This was chingar, for which the English verb “to fuck” provides a dull shadow of a translation. “Who is the Chingada [the fucked one]?” Paz asked rhetorically. “Above all, she is the Mother.” Carlos Fuentes’s The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962) contains a long passage built out of repetitions and variations of chingar, in which Mexico is described as “this secret society: the Order of the fucked mother”. Mexican profanity, a natural response to an intolerable and immovable status quo, has been used as a key to understanding the cultural influence, dating back to the conquistadors, of the concept of rape. Chingar is “Mexico’s password”, Fuentes wrote.

Hurricane Season by the Mexican writer Fernanda Melchor, first published in 2017 and now translated by Sophie Hughes, is a novel about this Order: a society governed by “the full, brutal force of male vice”. Accordingly, its language relies heavily on “magical words”. The story concerns a village witch, whose corpse is found floating in the river on page one: “her face had been half-eaten by some animal and it looked like the crazy bitch, the poor thing, was smiling”…

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