Inside a luxury housing complex, two misfit teenagers sneak around and get drunk. Franco Andrade, lonely, overweight, and addicted to porn, obsessively fantasises about seducing his neighbour – an attractive married woman and mother – while Polo dreams about quitting his gruelling job as a gardener within the gated community and fleeing his overbearing mother and their narco-controlled village. Each facing the impossibility of getting what he thinks he deserves, Franco and Polo hatch a mindless and macabre scheme. Written in a chilling torrent of prose by one of our most thrilling new writers, Paradais explores the explosive fragility of Mexican society – fractured by issues of race, class and violence – and how the myths, desires, and hardships of teenagers can tear life apart at the seams.
Comments from the Judges
Polo works as an aide-gardener in Paradise, a luxury housing complex in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz. A 16 year-old dropout, “dark-skinned and ugly as sin, his mother would say” he cannot pronounce the name of the place: it’s Paradais, not Pa-ra-dee-sey, says his boss. The rich residents, and those who, like Polo, cater to their needs, all have their eyes riveted on the American neighbour. Polo hates his job, but it’s still better than the prospect of going home to his mother. Drinking sessions with Franco, who lives in one of the overpriced homes, are his only available means of escape. Franco may be sex-obsessed and equally ugly but he can swipe real American whiskey from his grandparents, and Polo won’t miss a chance to get wasted. He’ll even facilitate Franco’s sick ploy to assault Senora Marian, a sexy mother-of-two who lives in one of the white villas. Why not? “If he had the chance to go inside the Maronos’s house like fatboy did, he wouldn’t waste it looking at panties (…) he would swipe the jewelry and watches, the consoles and screens…” In fevered, snaking sentences, Fernanda Melchor adopts the point of view of the perpetrators, their compulsive desire for whatever they cannot have. From the first page we know, even when we’d rather not – where it’s all heading, but Melchor’s prose is so mesmerizing that I dare you to let go of the book before its very end.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
The pace and intensity of the narration transmits all the sorrow, anger, and frustration that might make one empathize with some characters; and yet the novel is also relentless to show how coward self-justification and the inexcusable, selfish relief of one’s anger can make a victim as vile as any victimiser. The author thus depicts in few pages the complexity of human beings and of the context of their actions.
– Biblioteca Daniel Cosío Villegas, Mexico