Paradais
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Paradais

Fernanda Melchor, Sophie Hughes

Inside a luxury housing complex, two misfit teenagers sneak around and get drunk. Franco, 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 in the gated community and fleeing his overbearing mother and their narco-controlled village. Facing the impossibility of getting what they think they deserve, Franco and Polo hatch a mindless and macabre scheme.

Melchor is a thrilling writer, her electric prose charged with the power to transform the reader. Paradais explores the explosive nature of Mexico’s brittle society, fractured by issues of race, class and violence-and confronts us with teenagers whose desires and hardships can tear life apart.

Review

With her award- winning English- language debut Hurricane Season, Mexican journalist and novelist Fernanda Melchor demonstrated her remarkable ability to grapple with violence on the page. In this dazzling, brutal novel about femicide, Melchor’s visceral prose told the story of a murder in a Mexican village, and in doing so, considered issues of race, class and feminism in a way that felt both radical and deeply human. Melchor’s latest novel is Paradais, her second to be translated into English from Spanish by Sophie Hughes. Coming in at just over 100 pages, this is a slim but no less powerful read. Paradais is the provocative and terrifying story of Polo and Franco, two young men who cross paths in a fancy housing development in Veracruz. Polo is tough, ‘prieto’ (dark-skinned), and works as a gardener. Franco (who Polo refers to as ‘fatboy’) is blond and rich. They cross paths in

Paradise, where Franco lives with his grandparents and Polo mows the lawn. Over the course of a summer the boys meet up periodically, get drunk, talk about Franco’s sexual obsession with his neighbour (D-list celebrity Marián Maroño), and conspire to commit a macabre crime.

Like Hurricane Season, Paradais explores inequity, violence, masculinity and the relationship between men and women. Melchor’s feverish prose is fierce and all consuming, written in long sentences and paragraphs with a stream-of-consciousness orality that is intense to read, profane and often highly disturbing. The experience of reading this short book is both shocking and energising, but it’s worth noting that, while disconcerting, Melchor’s furious scrutiny of both misogyny and capitalism is never gratuitous. Here Melchor proves again how expertly she can tap into the human experience. With Paradais her story washes over the reader in a relentless torrent in way that feels wholly original and, ultimately, revelatory.


Stella Charls is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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