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Posts from the ‘Mario Bellatin’ Category

Bellatin’s Beauty Salon

Bellatin Beauty Salon-001

“Now the only thing I ask is that they respect the loneliness to come.”

The owner of the beauty salon in Beauty Salon is a gay guy who dresses in drag at work and cruises for men after hours. He raises tropical fish in aquariums placed throughout the salon for the amusement of his clients. But then a local gang called the Goat-Killer Gang begins causing havoc in the city and their wounded victims routinely become infected (and infectious) with a fatal disease. The salon owner renames his business The Terminal and takes in the dying victims who have been shunned by the rest of the city. But he rigorously prohibits any medicine in The Terminal. The disease is incurable, so why falsely prolong the process of dying? “I don’t know where we got the idea that helping sick people means keeping them away from the jaws of death at all costs. I made up my mind…that if there was no other option the best thing was a quick death under the most comfortable conditions I could offer the sick person.” Eventually, he, too, gets infected. And slowly, the tropical fish are dying off. Read more

Mario Bellatin’s Writers (2) – Yukio Mishima

Bellatin Mishima

Mario Bellatin is a trickster who loves to sow confusion. I recently wrote about Bellatin’s 2012 book Shiki Nagaoka: A Nose for Fiction, his fake biography of a non-existent Japanese writer. In Mishima’s Ilustrated Biography, he gives us a biography (of sorts) about the real Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, but this biography doesn’t begin until after Mishima has committed suicide and after his ritual decapitation by a colleague.

Mishima is part of a slim, bilingual volume that contains two brief novellas – Flowers (Flores) and Mishima’s Ilustrated Biography (Biografía Illustrada de Mishima). But Mishima is the work that most interests me today. The Mishima we are introduced to seems to be quite alive but lacking his head. Bellatin sketches out a number of disconnected episodes from Mishima’s extended life, many of which are superficially banal; he travels, attends conferences, visits a university, goes to the mall. But nothing in a Bellatin novel remains banal for long. Events mutate and spin off in unexpected directions. Take the example of Mishima’s attempt to find a substitute for his missing head. At first, a craftsman makes him a “rudimentary” head that “looks more like an archaic grenade than an integral part of his body.” He then considers having a kabuki mask made, but later decides that the making of a new head should be a “community project” wherein everyone would have shared responsibility for the end result. And then suddenly the subject is dropped, never to reappear. In Mishima, ideas are thrown out, explored (or exploited), then forgotten, as if attention-deficit has set in. Read more

Mario Bellatin’s Writers (1) – Shiki Nagaoka

Shiki Nagaoka

He considered it a privilege to include entire visual images within his texts that, in some way, instantly reproduced what the words and the ideograms were so pressed to represent.

from Shiki Nagaoka

A handful of the more than twenty books written by the Mexican writer Mario Bellatin have recently appeared in English, and three are books about writers and writing. Bellatin, like the Argentinian author César Aira, generally writes very brief and wonderfully bizarre novellas. In Shiki Nagaoka: A Nose for Fiction (Los Angeles: Phoneme, 2012), Bellatin creates an obscure fictional Japanese author who suffered from an extremely oversized nose. After spending thirteen years in a monastery, Nagaoka emerged in 1933 and decided to open up a small film developing kiosk, in part because of his increasing curiosity about the nature of photographs. As a result, “an infinity of photographs passed through Shiki Nagaoka’s hands,” which eventually led him to publish his book Photos and Words (“possibly his most solid work”). Photos and Words quickly “made its way around the world,” influencing the great Japanese filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu and writers such as the Mexican Juan Rulfo (1917-1986) and the Peruvian José Maria Arguedas. Rulfo was also well-known as a photographer, while Arguedas (according to Bellatin) wrote in his diary that the ability “to be able to see reality modified not only by the lens of the photographer but also by the written word that accompanies those images is a path that infinitely strengthens the narrative possibilities of actual reality.” Read more