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Aug. 18 2009 - 12:17 pm | 56 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

The Mexican novelist and his strange prosthesis

Mario Bellatin (Festa Literária Internacional Paraty)

Mario Bellatin (Festa Literária Internacional Paraty)

Mario Bellatin, an experimental Mexican novelist, was recently profiled by The New York Times. The profile’s headline calls him “mischievous,”and mentions that Bellatin, who’s missing much of his right arm, often wears a prosthesis “with an attachment, chosen from his collection of more than a dozen, that gives him the appearance of Captain Hook.”

Mischievous indeed– what the article doesn’t mention is that Bellatin appeared at a Brazilian literary festival last month with a very unusual accessory: a silver dildo-shaped attachment. While wearing this provocative appendage, Bellatin held forth on his avant-garde literary ideas. Bellatin’s well-respected among literary critics. Here’s writer Francisco Goldman on Bellatin’s 1994 novel Beauty Salon, which revolves around hair stylist whose salon becomes a hospice during an apocalyptic plague: “When this disquieting novella appeared, told in a spare poetic language that seemed at once familiar and hauntingly strange, Mexican (and even Latin American) literature changed.” Bellatin’s stunt in Paraty, Brazil earned him a cartoon in Playboy Brazil (link below). An excerpt from Beauty Salon, recently translated and published by City Lights, is also available at The New York Times.

Click here for the Playboy cartoon (via Moleskine Literario).


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  1. collapse expand

    More frightening than him wearing the prosthesis is where that prosthesis might have been. Was he making some sort of political statement or just being incendiary? I have never read his work.

  2. collapse expand

    I’m not sure about his motives. But he has been clear about his belief in provocative performance as a sort of ancillary support to his written work. For example, he once organized a literary panel in France, to which he brought body doubles of prominent Mexican novelists, their “clones,” to discuss literature. At once reading, he cited a made-up, large-nosed Japanese novelist as a major influence on his work, and didn’t disabuse the audience of their belief that this novelist actually existed. Later, he wrote a novel about this fictional writer.

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    Readers, thanks for your eyeball time, please send tips, corrections, complaints, rants, etc. My email is ballve [at] gmail.com. I was born in Buenos Aires and raised there and in Atlanta, Mexico City and Caracas. I've written and reported on Latin America for almost a dozen years. I started out as an Associated Press reporter and editor in the agency’s Brazil and Caribbean bureaus. In 2007 I co-founded El Sol de San Telmo, a community newspaper in Buenos Aires. I am now a contributing editor for the nonprofit New America Media, Americas correspondent for Amsterdam-based Research World magazine (publication of the international association of market and public opinion researchers), and a 2010-2011 Lemann Fellow at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

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