For fiction readers in the US, Latin American fiction normally boils down to a few high-profile names like Borges, García Márquez, or Bolaño. In terms of subject matter, stories about struggle against dictatorial regimes shot through a dose of magical-realism is what a popular reader has come to expect. But as Daniel Galera, guest editor of McSweeney’s 46, puts it, “it’s not so simple anymore.” This month,McSweeney’s Quarterly, one of country’s most popular outlets for literary fiction, has chosen to devote their entire issue to the Latin American crime story.
As an article in the Los Angeles Times points out, there is a logic to the decision. Crime writing has a way of straddling the line between “genre and literary.” The best crime writing uses the concept of crime as a gateway to tackle larger social and literary questions without necessarily resorting the ‘whodunit’ formula. And it appears as though formula was not the order of the day with this collection, with stories ranging from the relatively straight-forward “The Dirty Kid” by Argentine writer Mariana Enríquez, to Brazilian Bernardo Carvalho’s look into the mind a strange government official in his 11 page paragraph, “Jealousy.”
The latest issue of McSweeney’s contains 13 pieces from all over Latin-America, showcasing great diversity as well as some unexpected similarities, which Galara ascribes to the “anxiety of influence.” The collection works both as an introduction to writers that may not be that well-known in the states, as well as a celebration of a not often observed genre of Latin-American writing.