...[an] impressive new novel ...Hurricane Season belongs to the Gothic-grotesque tradition of the transnational American South. The novel’s tortured self-deceptions and sprung-trap revelations evoke the stories of Flannery O’Connor, or, more recently, the neuroses of Marlon James’s Kingston gunmen in A Brief History of Seven Killings In an interview about that novel, James spoke about the need to 'risk pornography' in the portrayal of violence—and Melchor certainly does. At times, she enters so deeply into the psyche of sexual violence that she skirts the voyeurism risked by any representation of cruelty ... The crime is not an act but an entire atmosphere, which Melchor captures in language as though distilling venom. Sometimes, though, this claustrophobic style breaks like a fever, yielding to flights of mesmerically expansive prose ... Offering such glints of transcendence at the edge of an ugly killing, Melchor creates a narrative that not only decries an atrocity but embodies the beauty and vitality it perverts.
There are no paragraphs, only chapter breaks. Paragraphing is managed instead by the full stops between extended sentences—breathless, bad-mouthed, resentful sentences, sentences that are fetid, rhythmic and readable, full of insult and gossip, anecdotes and digressions. The genius of Hurricane Season lies in the way its author encourages the reader to work with this babble to build not just the narrative of the murder, but also a picture of a poverty-stricken community further devastated by the coming of oil capital and the drugs industry ... Melchor’s deep drill into violence, femicide, homophobia and misogyny, translated with considerable verve and force by Sophie Hughes, is based on the real-life killing of a 'witch' outside Veracruz. It’s a mystery novel, but not one presented in any manner to which we’re accustomed; a horror novel, but only metaphorically; and a political novel with deep penetration of a remarkably foul milieu ... You close the book every so often, feeling that you have learned too much. Though there are glitters of humour and empathy, Hurricane Season is an uncompromisingly savage piece of work: difficult to escape from, built to shock. Yet it’s also elating. I was left buoyed up by Melchor’s anger, elated because she had shown me things I needed to be faced with.
... a bilious, profane, blood-spattered tempest of rage against what one character calls 'the full, brutal force of male vice' ... The chapters, written in obscenity-laden free indirect speech, are not monologues so much as diatribes. Sophie Hughes’s translation carries their furious momentum into English. They have no paragraph breaks, as if a moment’s pause would represent an unforgivable show of weakness ... This is the Mexico of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian or Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, where the extremes of evil create a pummeling, hyper-realistic effect. But the 'elemental cry' of Ms. Melchor’s writing voice, a composite of anger and anguish, is entirely her own.
... structurally inventive ... formidable ... vigorous, earthy language ... Melchor’s long, snaking sentences make the book almost literally unputdownable, shifting our grasp of key events by continually creeping up on them from new angle ... The near-dystopian onslaught of horror and squalor leaves you dumbstruck, as Melchor shows us the desperation of girls cruelly denied their ambitions, railroaded into household service or worse, and the depravity of boys for whom desire comes fatally muddled with power and humiliation. It’s telling that the only characters with any real measure of control – a police chief and a narco boss, morally indistinguishable – are the only ones from whose perspective Melchor never writes ... While there’s no shortage of ugly moments, including the hinted-at contents of a viral video showing the fate of an abducted child, it’s often the smallest details that testify to how thoroughly Melchor has inhabited her often appalling material ... this is fiction with the brakes off. Not an Oprah book club pick, one suspects, but not a novel to be missed – if you can steel yourself.
Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season, first published in 2017 and now appearing in a blistering English translation by Sophie Hughes, surveys a provincial world battered by...storms ... Unlike the titans of the midcentury provincial novel, who conjured their settings through a dreamlike fog, Melchor narrates from up close, pricking at her characters’ nerve endings. Her prose unfolds in long, untamed sentences that barrel down the page like a truck on a dirt road, its engine sputtering with obscenities. (All but one of the book’s eight chapters takes the form of a single torrential paragraph.) Melchor’s feverish voice burns away any semblance of journalistic objectivity, but her methods nevertheless arise from her nonfiction crónicas, vivid accounts of the effects of drug-war violence on the everyday lives of Jarochos, as Veracruz’s inhabitants are known ... Rather than belabor the point, Melchor takes a certain glee in the horror-movie liberties that the theme of witchcraft affords her ... Melchor latches onto each of these witnesses for a single chapter, holding tight as they crash through their ordeals, then abandoning them at the height of their agony. Her close-third-person voice is intimate and coarse, sensitive to pleasure as well as pain ... Few writers since the revolutionary days of the Mexican novel have so vividly rendered the lives of Los de abajo—'those down below' ...
... so strange, wild, and foul-mouthed that I almost missed the sharp critiques embedded in the story...spreads like a fungus from the dark center of the literary space where crime fiction and horror meet ... a linguistic blitzkrieg — Melchor is allergic to periods and wants to explore how far she can carry a sentence without using one. The result — ably translated by Sophie Hughes — is mesmerizing; lengthy sentences that pack entire stories in them, a barrage of filthy language and obscene acts, and pacing that makes readers hold the book tighter. Sentences that take up two or three pages sound like a horrible reading experience, but Melchor pulls it off brilliantly — I never felt lost, or confused by her style, probably because the voices sound like a regular person telling someone a story instead of an author trying to impress readers with literary filigrees ... Melchor doesn't shy away from any topic — even things that will make readers cringe. However, her approach is unique: Instead of being preachy, she shows what drug abuse, poverty, alcoholism, corruption, homophobia, and misogyny do to shape people and communities. This makes Hurricane Season a rough read. Brutality abounds, and the violence, often directed at women and gay people, is so close to real events that it almost qualifies as nonfiction ... I don't believe in censorship, but I do believe in warnings, and readers who have a problem digesting rough language and extreme violence should know that there is plenty of both here. However, they should read it anyway — because the vocabulary Melchor uses perfectly mirrors the language used in places like the one she's writing about. The callousness and hostility present in her ugly words come from the way people trapped in poor, small towns feel; it comes from generations of unchecked machismo and lack of education. There is a lot of talk about authenticity in fiction, and Melchor achieves it through her words ... a dark celebration of language that pushes against the rules with its collection of unreliable narrators, its shifting realities, and its endless sentences peppered with Spanish and songs. Yeah, at the end of the day, Melchor is the witch and this novel is a powerful spell.
... testimonies come as thick, ferocious, spleen-venting torrents. Each chapter is devoted to one character, and their tale or tirade unfolds in a single paragraph composed of long, breathless sentences that build in momentum and reach feverish levels of intensity. The characters emerge as unreliable narrators and sifting their stories for truth proves increasingly futile. After a fashion we learn to suspend disbelief and surrender to the novel's dark energy and linguistic thrills ... not for the squeamish. Pages are packed with expletives. People are scarred or broken. Whole lives are ruined by appalling violence, cruelty and degradation. The fictitious Mexican town, in thrall to superstition and poverty, offers no hope, no redemption, and definitely no way out. At the start of each successive chapter we brace ourselves for a fresh onslaught of pain and profanity, sound and fury, hardship and despair. And yet despite the book's terrifying vision and depressing scenarios, it is difficult to turn away. Melchor is regarded as one of Mexico's most talented young writers and her unflinching, no-holds-barred depictions of warped humanity have the same power as her eponymous hurricane, hitting us again and again with 'bitter, hellacious force.' Shortlisted for the 2020 International Booker Prize and brilliantly translated by Sophie Hughes, this incendiary novel continues to burn and leave its mark long after the last page.
The novel itself is a witch’s brew, as harsh as possible by design. The ultra-long sentences and strict no-paragraphs policy mean that it has to be downed, more or less, in one shot ... The translation’s predominant use of British slang – and especially of British profanity – is questionable. Hurricane Season is an infrarealist protest novel about Mexico, with its men in pickups, its secret society of narcos and corrupt police, 'those fuckers' who are 'basically the same thing'. The vernacular of even the most hardbitten British pub probably carries too weak a charge for this reality ... Otherwise, Hughes elegantly brings out Melchor’s cruel humour, her textured depiction of backland squalor and flashes of hardcore poetry – along with the novel’s primary effect, which is that of a kind of sensory bludgeoning.
Melchor conjures a tempestuous story that obliterates long-familiar portrayals of violence. In their place she sets spinning a whirling dervish of misogyny, homophobia, and superstition amid the mundane lives of the poor ... For all its heady lore, Hurricane Season also observes the fleeting gratifications of everyday life ... The author doesn’t slow down to pick any of this apart. She lets it swirl in an intoxicating eddy of warm beer and cheesy pop songs, crooked cops and a cemetery so full its graves look like 'pitcher’s mounds.' Wild yet intentional, unsentimental and sometimes funny, Melchor’s prose runs counter to a certain prevalent American aesthetic wherein every line is stripped to its bare essentials, a style that looks bloodless and labored by comparison ... a stirring rhythm, at once vital and imbued with a nauseating inevitability. As subsequent chapters relate ever more desperate circumstances and sinister motivations, one sinks deeper and deeper into Melchor’s waking nightmare as into a pool of mud ... This is not, to put it lightly, a subtle work. Despite their specificity, the characters in Hurricane Season come second to the novel’s formidable cadence. It’s risky, too, to traffic in the kind of brutality Melchor does—rape, bestiality, even the tossed-off sexist assumptions men and women make about each other—but she wields it all expertly, and with the brio of a drunken dancer. What remains by novel’s end is the sense of a writer going for it, of breathlessly recounting an unsettling story, one with the terrible power of a myth.
... pummels the reader in a torrent of unrelenting sentences that are gripping and ghastly, forcing a critical look at society ... structurally poignant ... unveils the complexity and complications of living in a small town where people like their 'gossip served hot' ... Translated with astute grit, rawness, and unsparing vulgarity ... Within the chaos that ensues, it’d be remiss to ignore the passion, if not love, that also runs through the novel ... Though the issues explored in Melchor’s stirring novel are undoubtedly specific to rural Mexico, and Mexico at large, they are far from unfamiliar to the rest of Latin America and the greater world ... It’s exactly this comfort in the grotesque, the casual nature of it, that is ultimately the most disturbing yet captivating aspect of the novel. A debut that dares you to put it down, Melchor’s Hurricane Season drowns its reader in ominous truth, accentuating real life through fiction.
It is perhaps Melchor’s willingness to explode a violent act into multiple perspectives, to look at it again and again from different angles (perpetrator, bystander, accomplice) that makes Hurricane Season feel weightier than most contemporary fiction. This is a novel that sinks like lead to the bottom of the soul and remains there, its images full of color, its characters alive and raging against their fate ... there is a breathlessness to the prose, a break-neck rhythm, as if the characters were desperate to say as much as possible before our attention moves elsewhere. We feel the rhythms of this village, with its prostitutes on the highway, its men who work the oil fields, its women who run the fondas. We hear the rustle of the cane fields. We are made to bear witness, to be a living part of this world ... There is something horrifically timely, too, about reading Hurricane Season in the early days of 2020...as newspapers continue to report on asylum seekers at the US border, held in deplorable conditions, many of whom are fleeing gang violence, domestic abuse, child rape, and femicide ... The novel does not, nor should it, tell us how to act. Instead its terrible beauty carves a wound, painful enough to startle us out of our complacency.
This is not a book for the faint-hearted. The worst that humanity has to offer is detailed here — unimaginable violence and cruelty, bestiality, rape — and every page is littered with profanities ... Yet I found it impossible to look away...unfurls with the pressure and propulsion of an unforeseen natural disaster, the full force of Melchor’s arresting voice captured in Sophie Hughes’ masterful translation ... Each character’s story is transfixing ... There is no melodrama, no pity, just fearless realism that rises to a bloodbath of a crescendo ... Melchor presents her readers with a modern Boschian hellscape rendered in harrowing but magnificent detail; an unforgiving, furious portrait of a vortex of poverty, violence and helplessness.
For all its unpleasantness, Hurricane Season has the power at times to mesmerise ... Structurally adventurous...Melchor does not make things easy for the reader ... Hurricane Season is a book that makes significant demands on the reader’s willingness to submit to a dyspeptic vision of Mexico today ... With its paraphernalia of scythe-wielding carnival skeletons, grinning skulls and other cactus-prickly delights, the book might have issued from the charnel house of Baudelaire’s imagination ... The book’s incidental digressions on the nature of machismo and misogyny, religious prejudice and police corruption are only rarely tedious. Hurricane Season is, among other things, an apology for a mystery novel without a solution ... Sophie Hughes deserves a medal for her translation, which expertly captures the novel’s lugubrious comedy and propulsive, high-octane scatology ... If Hurricane Season has a fault, it lies in the unrelentingly dark and testy quality of its vision, which allows for little or no hope.
Hurricane Season doesn’t have a dynamic plot; it takes the form of circling monologues, or virtual monologues, narrated in an intimate third person ... The language elements of the translation don’t combine into a convincing emulsion. It’s not so much a rich mix of registers as a no-man’s-land of conflicting idioms ... Conventional paragraphing and chapter breaks could be inserted into Hurricane Season without repercussions on the other elements of the book, but Melchor’s way of constructing sentences, which also overrides the reader’s convenience, isn’t so easily wished away ... Melchor’s [sentences] are more like slow-motion mudslides. There’s no question of any surprise, a sting in the tail ... The refusal of so much of the sentence’s structural, tonal and above all rhythmic potential has a disorienting effect. Short or shortish sentences acquire an extra forcefulness not necessarily connected with what they have to say ... There’s a difference between actual monologue and the virtual monologues which make up so much of this book. There’s not much first-person speech in Hurricane Season, but the textural difference is obvious when it comes ... There is rhythmic momentum here, and a reprieve from the grinding stasis that is the predominant effect of the novel. First-person speech has an organic rhythm, corresponding to the expending and replenishment of breath, which is lost when the same words are shifted into the third person. Reading is a consensual activity, and even the most depressing book has a latent positivity, a sense that things need not be as they are, just as the most death-haunted dirge is still a song. Melchor’s long sentence seems to insist on the piling up of crushing circumstance, the opposite of the utter transformation ... The goal of making the reader as powerless to contest the impact of the narrative as the characters are to resist their circumstances is undesirable as well as impractical. Reading can’t and shouldn’t become...something impossible to keep out, like the visual impressions received by an open-sighted eye. In literature readerly freedom is not something for technique to overcome but the medium through which technique operates, however extreme the material.
Reading Fernanda Melchor's novel...is a bit like entering the natural disaster of its title, with sweeping paragraphs, lashing sentences, and scenes of breathtaking ferocity. Sophie Hughes’s formidable translation of the difficult text (originally published in Spanish in 2016) immerses the reader in a world of linguistic and material violence on Mexico’s Gulf Coast ... innovative ... Melchor’s novel makes clear how the dehumanization of the worker is linked to the profit-seeking imperatives of corporations ... Hurricane Season’s portrayal of abject poverty echoes the naturalist novel’s biting critique of environmental and human exploitation ... Melchor’s neonaturalism is more akin to what Mark Fisher has called 'capitalist realism,' which posits no 'political alternatives to capitalism' ... Melchor declines to embrace futuristic fantasies of a world beyond capitalism. Instead, her novel depicts the impotence of such hopes, even as it shines a powerful light on the damaged lives left in capitalism’s wake.
What rescues Hurricane Season from triteness is Melchor’s virtuosic prose, somewhat effaced but not entirely blunted in translation. She writes of lives with specificity, with a crude recognition of their humanity that allows, if not for redemption or hope for those lives, at least some measure of peace for their dead ... Melchor’s sentences ensnare the reader within the characters’ delusions, their small, persistent faiths, their regrets, their resentments. Her prose is as ornate as Sebald’s, turning in on itself, forming fractal spirals of meaning. But while Sebald’s sentences have a stately, lecture-hall air to them, Melchor’s sound more like a drunk’s slurred tale. It’s the breathless monologue of good gossip or the bitter outpouring of religious profession, with no paragraph break, no gasp for air. What makes the writing mesmerizing is the almost imperceptible way that Melchor is able to inflect each character’s voice within the novel’s sustained tone of a close, omniscient third-person narration. The effect, subtle yet transfixing, is of a narrator slipping into each character as if slipping into a new skin, without collapsing into any stable 'I' ... In the lives—and deaths—she writes, Melchor doesn’t 'give a voice' to anyone. She carefully sets the altar, places an ofrenda, lights a candle, and listens.
... a whirling novel that rages ahead from the first page ... the book’s profanity-laden pages sustain its sense of dismal fury ... The ensuing polyphonic squall of rumors pelts the reader in an onslaught of caustic prose that translator Sophie Hughes seasons with slang culled from across the English-speaking world ... That a quasi-plausible witch exists in a story that takes place in a world where texting, viral videos and AIDS shape the lives of its characters colors the events with a patina of retrospection, a subtle stylistic sleight of hand that underscores the story’s complexity ... The formal choice of block text and single-paragraph chapters visually reinforces the gravity of solving why this ghastly femicide took place. The urgency is palpable ... a literary approximation of indulging in the kind of televised natural disaster coverage compelling in its depravity. Finishing this manic, gripping novel may instigate a desire for a long, hot shower.
... unforgettable ... Hughes translates from the Spanish, beautifully preserving Melchor's nearly uninterrupted prose, which conjures an intense gravity that can be difficult to escape ... menacing and longwinded sentences form the ferocious spiraling arms ... Melchor plays with storytelling as a malleable substance with such dexterity that even the coarsest language glimmers on the page. Prejudicial personal accounts blur into hearsay, into folklore and mythology, and back again, so that by its end this sensational novel resembles a profane gospel of human greed and betrayal. Its transgressions, however, are unmistakably rooted in frank depictions of poverty, need, abuse and addiction, begging empathy for nearly everyone involved. In La Matosa's economy of violence, Melchor makes awfully clear the ways women bear the most unforgiving burdens of exploitation. Yet Hurricane Season weathers it all into an exquisite work of art.
Melchor tells us a tale as wondrously grotesque and captivating as a Bosch triptych narrated by a raunchy female Cormac McCarthy ... Melchor’s technical skills are wildly impressive. She has crafted single sentences that run effortlessly for up to three entire pages, sliding at times between third and first person in a quicksilver wink at conventions. The prose is lucid, lyrical and seems to take joy in its own construction. Melchor’s craft is the stylistic opposite of the clipped fragments offset by white space that seem to have become so popular since the publication of books like Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation. In all 220 pages of Hurricane Season, there is not a single paragraph break ... Though most of the book is written in a semi-omniscient third person it has the close-to-the-throat feeling of a private confession. The town itself seems to want to vomit out its guilty defense in a torrent as long and muddy as the canal where the body was found. The chapters circle in on themselves, returning to certain key moments and phrases the way that a witness in a trial might track back to a memory and then catch up and push the story forward. The weight of obsession is a current throughout and voice is what carries the reader along ... While McCarthy brought this framework to bear on 19th-century American expansionism and the Mexican-American war, Melchor uses it to illuminate the current state of post-NAFTA globalization that leaves ordinary small-town communities just as vulnerable to modern day scalp-hunters and bloodthirsty capitalists in all their various forms.
Melchor draws on disparate traditions (from crime fiction to García Márquez novels) to create a masterpiece that is very much her own ... spectacularly fulfills the promise of Melchor’s early works, marking a major leap in her development as a writer ... The Witch’s identity and her murder provide a compelling narrative that would in itself sustain a very good noir tale, including a major twist that readers will find fascinating ... The novel unfolds as an enactment of the collective memory of this community—an act of social remembrance rather than individual recollection. In Hurricane Season, the characters are more compelling in their whole than in themselves ... is, in literary terms, a unique book in Mexican literature, at least among those translated and published in the US ... Melchor updates a significant genealogy of twentieth-century fictional writing that is not so directly engaged by any other influential Mexican writer of her generation ... whereas García Márquez’s prose trends towards the baroque, narrating by aggregation, Melchor’s prose is violent, tearing through the very elements that are brought together in its large chunks of thought. García Márquez skillfully constructs a lavish fictional reality, overflowing with elaborate details. Melchor presents a ravaged one, delivered in a raging voice ... Although the translation loses some of Melchor’s linguistic richness, Hughes succeeds splendidly in conveying the flow and, more crucially, the immense power, of the narrative. Other than a few occasional words, Hughes resists the temptation to pepper the book with untranslated Spanish terms, and rather delivers them into her own inventive English nicknames and turns of phrase, which allows the book to be as powerful and as readable as the Spanish original ... much-deserved recognition for a formidable and mighty novel, a masterpiece of Mexican literature.
... a brutal and relentless novel evidently not written with an American audience in mind ... Melchor refuses to invite comfortable readers to imagine themselves in the situation of her intensely vulnerable characters ... As the plot unfolds, the novel hits a checklist of social ills and hits them so hard that the results at times approach the unreadable. And yet, the book has a ferocious rhetorical and narrative power, a profane colloquial energy that almost serves as a protest against the cruelty it recounts. At times the novel’s style feels close to outpacing the nightmarish world it narrates ... That it never does is Melchor’s greatest challenge to the protocols of ‘literary fiction,’ which tends to recast even the grimmest material as intellectually or morally fortifying. But you’re not going to feel better, or better about yourself, for having read Hurricane Season ... The narrative structure is a marvel of engineering ... readers who want to attain a vivid sense of the Witch’s humanity are forced to interpret these expressions of hatred as the author’s analysis of that intolerance. But Melchor’s narrator is brutally scrupulous in leaving that task to us ... Melchor’s sparse details point us to the ravages of global capital without underlining them ... A sense of entrapment is viscerally relayed by the very look of the page, those seamless paragraph-walls enclosing the events in a typographic prison ... Our culture has produced a lot of language lately about toxic masculinity, but rarely have the hydraulics of that phenomenon been so precisely analyzed ... Perhaps what most sets Hurricane Season apart from other contemporary fictions of abandonment is its refusal to sentimentalize the work that literature does ... The enclosure of the novel’s world puts enormous pressure on Melchor’s language: the book’s propulsive style, replete with profanity and Veracruzan slang, is charged with making the novel’s cruelty endurable. In this, Melchor succeeds stunningly: the book is at once repellent and transfixing. Sophie Hughes’s impressive translation meets a daunting challenge with energy and inventiveness; the rhythm of her prose matches the fervor of Melchor’s original...In places, though, Hughes’s choices inflect the novel’s tone in odd ways ... In the unforgiving environment of Hurricane Season, where viciously contemptuous language renders an unthinkably brutal story, Melchor’s moments of stylistic neutrality provide a kind of baseline of solemnity, even of dignity. There’s reason to miss them ... remains a powerful experience for the way its cruelty becomes, improbably, and before our eyes, a form of radically intransigent egalitarianism. While more conventional writers advertise their moral delicacy in dealing with vastly disempowered characters, Melchor’s relentlessness makes that strategy look like condescension. Hewing close to her painful material – and refusing to let her narrator philosophize about it or apologize for it – Melchor reveals something distasteful in the common notion that the task of fiction is to ‘convey the humanity’ of people in extreme circumstances. Hurricane Season demands instead that we assume the humanity of its characters. Is there a better condition of entry for a novel to set its readers?
There is a breathlessness to these accounts, as if time is running out ... an important intervention—by focusing her attention on Veracruz, the initial site of conquistador colonialism, Melchor demonstrates that the everyday lives of people who are far away from the border, who are not narcos, and who are just trying to get by, or get high, or waste time while waiting for work, are still ‘dying in the heat’, at risk of destruction at every moment ... The relentless onslaught of clauses and conjunctions in Melchor’s sentences seem to mimic forward movement, but the reader is instead pushed deeper and deeper into the lives of characters for whom it appears death is the only way out of suffering and squalor. The chapters hurtle around and circle back to the same points, revealing grislier details previously omitted, and mostly end up with their protagonists at dead ends...Sometimes it is necessary to slow down or pause, and come up for air ... The brilliance of Melchor’s novel is that it continually overturns assumptions, doing so, sometimes, within the same sentence ... Much of the tragedy and considerable affective power of Melchor’s novel comes from its characters being forced to be adults too early, having to learn their lines as they are playing the roles in a drama that is all too real ... Against the context of a country where abortion is very much a pressing issue, and women are routinely prosecuted and convicted for having abortions, Melchor’s novel feels vital ... Chingar, Paz writes ‘stings, wounds, gashes, stains. And it provokes a bitter, resentful satisfaction.’ The same might be said about Melchor’s novel. It is gruelling and thrilling to be pummelled through its characters’ fast, fucked-up lives, but what emerges from the experience is a greater understanding of a complex country in crisis, as well as a whole world spiralling out of control ... acts as materialist critique of the kind of toxic masculinity that dominates the politics of our contemporary moment, demonstrating the ways in which social relations are reduced to, and simultaneously subvert, the dialectic of ‘fucker’ and ‘the fucked’.
... focuses its brutally exacting eye on a single case ... Melchor’s style is remarkably sure-footed and maximalist in a mostly managed way ... controlled cascades of syntactical bravado ... unceasing cascades of mixed dictions and shifting POVs ... Melchor’s prose, a masterfully controlled outpouring, both demands and earns our careful attention ... Melchor constructs a complex and fully realized world — the community and its denizens, by the end, teem with individuality and life ... As the novel progresses, so does the violence. Physical, psychological, sexual, and mental violence permeate the work, and it’s sometimes difficult to stomach ... Melchor’s narrative moves all over the place temporally, winding in circles back on itself, mirroring the cycle of violence enacted by her characters. Her penetrating eye displays deep empathy for these people, even the most outwardly reprehensible of them; she doesn’t forgive their actions, but she seeks to understand them with the desperation of someone who truly appreciates the magnitude and scope of the horror, and the importance of trying, of ceaselessly trying to stop the femicides ... Hughes has thoroughly met the challenges presented by Melchor’s spiraling, vigorous prose ... decidedly political but only in its moral implications — Melchor’s advocacy isn’t the big-picture sort of Bolaño’s 2666. Rather, it is the kind that grabs you by the wrist, yanks you toward a darkened spot of the world, shines a light on it, points at it and says: Look at what this light shows you. Look how trapped these people are in their circumstances. Look how many factors contribute to the murder of one woman. Look how these things are so intricately embedded into this culture that it may seem impossible to unravel. Look how this woman suffers because of the unrestrained toxicity of men. Look at this horror. Now imagine it happening everywhere.
At first, the book’s structure seems to match that of a police procedural, with each chapter circling closer to establishing motive, method, meaning. But much like the activists, Melchor burrows so deeply into the circumstances of the murder as to shatter them and raise much more discomfiting questions about the everyday—and intimate—nature of violence against women. The novel’s language, deftly rendered into English by Sophie Hughes, matches the claustrophobic enclosure of a small town in rural Mexico, yet it crackles with expansive gestures to the outside world. Rather than a simple testimonial or act of witness to this violence, however, Melchor’s virtuosic deployment of slang and bitter insults—of weaponized speech—transforms the violence of her novel and, by extension, the violence of femicide into what Cathy Park Hong calls 'an artwork of vengeance.' Hurricane Season is a novel that refuses the call to come together, to overcome, to heal. It insists on being heard ... The style recalls Thomas Bernhard in its dexterity and vicious humor, but where Bernhard offers vivisections of single characters, Melchor continually breaks outside the confines of individual consciousness, pushing her characters to inhabit, if only briefly, the thoughts and lives of others. The result is stunning, a tapestry of interwoven lives in which even the most righteous character is shown to be capable of enormous cruelty—and of suffering dearly for it. Melchor’s language hems the reader in with an unspooling, unforgiving wall of text that relies minimally on periods and not at all on paragraph breaks. Her prose unfolds in great looping circles ... stomach-churning, molar-grinding, nightmare-inducing, and extraordinarily clear-eyed account of the ordinary horrors men inflict upon women.
... when one comes across a desolate town in rural Mexico, dark secrets, desperate circumstances and brushes with the supernatural are likely to begin swirling about like the breezes that precede a storm. Temporada de Huracanes, (newly published as Hurricane Season in English,) by Fernanda Melchor, tells a story set in just such a rural Mexican town ... A pulsing, sprawling tale of intimacy sought in a space defined by exchange and casual violence, Hurricane Season, like the force of nature it is named for, is best described as a text that is experienced, even survived. Both the content and narrative style of Melchor’s text merit attention ... managing to be both strenuously fast-paced and grueling. The former is due to the text’s lack of paragraph breaks, sparse dialogue markings and stream-of-consciousness/digressive narrative style. The latter primarily rests on the mingled effects of the frenetic narrative style with descriptions of scene and personalities that linger on the specific flaws, ugliness and coping methods of each.
As the pummeling torrent of prose rushes forward, it runs over Melchor’s characters like an avalanche, incorporating the depths of their personalities—their speech patterns, their hopes, their loves, and (more frequently) their hates. Vitriolic, ribald, and brimful of expletives and slurs, the language trundles onward like a black sludge, a punishment to read ... Though the narration swarms parasitically around the book’s characters, adopting their language and tone, there’s a manic energy to the writing that seems always to interfere, holding the characters at bay and preventing them from taking full control of the narration. The slinking of Melchor’s sentences feels like a vision of the obsessive chains—of personality, of circumstance—that bind her characters to their fates. The way the writing rolls and churns, accreting clauses and voices, manages to decenter the characters’ perspectives. In this sense, Hurricane Season can often read like a bar-room conversation run amok, a hurly-burly convocation of wrathful voices. Interestingly, we never hear the Witch speak, so that in the end the book enacts structurally its central metaphor—the Witch is imprisoned by the perspectives of those around her, a cyclone of judgments and opinions that entrap and impale.
...if you read anything about [Melchor's] new novel Hurricane Season, from blurbs to reviews, the focus will almost always be violence, whether it’s how visceral the book is or how much pain its main characters have to endure throughout. But the cracks, and the vulnerability and tenderness they imbue the narrative with, are just as essential: they ensure that what could have been a gratuitous and voyeuristic tale is, in fact, a contemplation of the contradictory forces that give rise to violence ... In Hurricane Season the absence of love and affection feed violence. And they are exacerbated by precarious financial conditions, by misogynistic and homophobic traditions, and by an inability to accept vulnerability, which can get you killed. It is a novel about violence, to be sure, but also about survival. It asks us to recognize that when there are no Witches around, when there is no gold to be found, and when there are no spells or hurricane seasons to drive people mad, the real curse is what we do to each other.
The book is dark, chaotic and violent, each chapter a torrent of suspicions and recollections, of memories and emotions unearthed by tragedy. In these stressful times it feels appropriate to read fiction that rises to the same emotional intensity that we’re feeling – but more importantly, to read something that helps bridge the gap: to other people, other places, other cultures than our own. What comes through most strongly, despite the unfamiliar details of these characters’ lives, is how their hopes and lamentations resonate as familiar and profoundly human.
Melchor’s English-language debut made the cut for the Booker International 2020 long list and employs a creative storytelling technique, but readers must be forewarned that its vulgar, raunchy language is not for the linguistically squeamish.
... a haunting masterpiece reminding us that there are no winners when it comes to intolerance ... Through the unfiltered, rambling consciousness of her troubled characters, Melchor reveals the depths of human greed and the desperate actions it drives us to commit.
... easy to swallow prose with stomach churning subject matter ... The formula couldn’t be more simplistic—this is a murder mystery through and through. Everyone wants to know who killed the Witch. In fact, we get the answer early in the novel, but the grisly particulars of why and how the Witch was murdered are not revealed until the gut wrenching conclusion ... Melchor’s use of a nonlinear structure compliments the dizzying array of voices, which often shift within a single sentence. These seamless transitions between the kaleidoscopic perspectives are spectacular reminiscent of Evan Dara’s criminally underread masterpiece The Lost Scrapbook. Long, winding sentences can become cumbersome, but Melchor manages to bring a certain measure of control to even the most unwieldy lines, some of which span several pages ... Reading Hurricane Season is a constant guessing game, but this makes it all the more satisfying to decipher the clues ... Hughes’ English translation captures this reality by maintaining the poetic integrity of the original Spanish, especially in those page-length sentences, which savor the flexibility of language. Hughes also strategically peppers untranslated Spanish phrases and Mexican colloquialisms, adding a unique patois. Yes, the Spanish is in italics—a convention that has become increasingly senseless to me—but thankfully Hughes is careful not to overdo it ... The book is rife with delightful profanities and slang ... even the most vicious characters are written with indelible nuance. Many are both callous and compassionate in equal measure. I find this effect disturbing as it forces the reader to sympathize with characters who have committed heinous crimes. Morality becomes muddled as the novel progresses, blurring the line between good and evil until they become almost indistinguishable ... Melchor has delivered an intensely engaging and thought provoking new novel ... She explores the consequences of repressed sexuality and unchecked lust, giving a scathing yet empathetic critique of not only Mexican society but humanity as a whole. This book is challenging in its depictions of violence—especially against children—yet this is what also makes it an incredibly brave and compelling work. The narrative is as dark as it gets. Still, Melchor manages to inject a measure of hope at the novel’s conclusion. The hurricane brings destruction and misery, while also creating the conditions necessary for new growth, new life. The cycle of nature mirrors the cycle of trauma, until the rain washes everything away.
More than once did I consider abandoning Hurricane Season...Sentences are pages long, and the ones that are not are often fragments. Many times I lost my place. I could barely see through the imagery, which is torrential yet constantly vivid. Even so, I turned its final page after only a few sittings ... Melchor writes in a third person that warps without warning into first then back to third. It’s a technique suited to her architecture of disorientation ... Characters are referred to repeatedly as 'dipshits' and 'dumb fucks,' each slur hitting like a fat raindrop, until, eventually, the aspersions become rhythmic. But then over time, as characters become known—not merely a “dipshit,” but a son, a cousin, a friend—a humanity emerges ... There is little time for reflection or introspection, and if it comes, it does so circularly and too late ... Especially noteworthy is Melchor’s evocation of the novel’s swampy, mosquito-ridden landscapes ... The translation by Sophie Hughes is its own triumph, navigating nimbly between the novel’s merciless dread and knife-sharp humor ... Many readers may not be prepared for the pitch blackness inside. And yet, as a storm rages around us, you’ll need somewhere to hide out until it passes.
... remarkable for the sheer force of its language ... The format gives the impression that we’re occupying the space of a host of characters who’ll brook no interruption, even if their storytelling is lurid, digressive, and/or unreliable ... Two virtuoso chapters underscore the depth of feeling and disquieting intensity Melchor is capable of, one turning on a girl impregnated by her stepfather and the blame and embarrassment rained upon her, the other about a closeted young man in a Bosch-ian milieu that takes byways into drugs, violence, and bestiality porn. It’s tough stuff but not gratuitously so: The narrative moves so fast the slurs and gross-outs feel less like attempts to shock and more like the infrastructure of a place built on rage and transgression ... Messy yet engrossingly feverish. Melchor has deep reserves of talent and nerve.
... a furious vortex of voices that swirl around a murder in a provincial Mexican town ... The murder mystery (complete with a mythical locked room in the Witch’s house) is simply a springboard for Melchor to burrow into her characters’ heads: their resentments, secrets, and hidden and not-so-hidden desires. Forceful, frenzied, violent, and uncompromising, Melchor’s depiction of a town ogling its own destruction is a powder keg that ignites on the first page and sustains its intense, explosive heat until its final sentence.