Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season

Trigger warning: everything under the sun, not that I go into any detail here, I promise. Finished reading this last night before bed, my ninth novel of 2023, after several weeks of purposefully not reading it right before bed, or when I ate, for that matter. The incessant violence of Hurricane Season isn’t what I worried might keep me up. What threatened to keep me up was trying not to imagine the effort that went into accomplishing the writing in the first place — the effort not on the part of the violence’s many perpetrators, but on the part of the author, Fernanda Melchor, or her translator, Sophie Hughes, not that authorship isn’t its own form of perpetration, or a translator a sort of accomplice, or that writing isn’t its own form of violence. Not, no — perhaps because. Hurricane Season is a Rashomon of abject poverty, written in sentences that seem to go on indefinitely but in fact largely adhere to civil society’s conception of grammar. By the end of one such sentence, you might be at an entirely other interstice along the story’s morbid timeline, or considering the world from the point of view of another dissolute character. But like the sentences, the broader chapters adhere to a certain logic, to an unwavering sense of ordinary reality, and they wend their way back to where they started, as if each life-altering incident and each fleeting association are merely byways to a sense not just of closure but of absolute, wearying, ceaseless inevitability. After about a quarter of the way through the book, I almost put it down for good. I’m not big on torture horror, less so when among the victims are the readers themselves. But when I realized that each section had a different character as its narrative avatar, I decided to stick with it. A puzzle emerged, all the better one for which a solution isn’t the point. The point is that the puzzle exists in the first place — that lives could be this intermingled and this alienated, this interdependent and this diametrically opposed, that they could fit together and yet not yield a satisfying whole. I alternated with lighter stuff (a history of mysticism, a pulp noir, a by-the-books spy novel, some utterly mainstream comic books), and slowly made my way. I started reading this because I saw it on a list of novels by someone on a list of someones, all of whom read books that were current and literary and demanding. Apparently a film is being made of it. I can’t imagine ever watching it. Imagining it was hard enough.

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