Paradais is both more compact and more cogent [than Hurricane Season]. Rhythm and lexis work in tandem to produce a savage lyricism. The translator Sophie Hughes marvellously matches the author in her pursuit of a new cadence ... From its first sentence, in fact, Paradais feels rhythmically propelled towards a violent climax. Full stops occur rarely enough to seem meaningful, Melchor using long lines of unbroken narrative to reel in her terrible ending ... The author wants to understand the violence, not merely condemn it ... The novel’s language, meanwhile, is both high-flown and street-smart, strewn with Veracruzian slang, the odd made-up word and many eye-watering expletives ... Pressure builds remorselessly to a dreadful climax. It is an extraordinary feat of control, making Fernanda Melchor’s exceptional novel into a contemporary masterpiece.
With a nimble command of the novel’s technical resources and an uncanny grasp of the irrational forces at work in society, the [Paradais and Hurricane Season] navigate a reality riven by violence, race, class, and sex. And they establish Melchor, who was born in 1982, as the latest of Faulkner’s Latin American inheritors, and among the most formidable ... Paradais is a portrait of an ailing society inured to its own cruelty, and employs long paragraphs and supple sentences, always alive to the rhythms of speech. But the new novel departs from the previous one in important ways: it is more contained, less daring, less ambitious; it is, in a peculiar way, more reader-friendly ... Paradais is a study of misogyny. But Melchor is primarily a novelist, not a journalist, and there are no concessions here to any kind of reportorial completeness. We never get to know Señora Marián as anything other than Franco’s object of desire ... The novel stays stubbornly within the vantage of the two friends who plan to attack her; its narrative choices mimic their highly circumscribed empathy. Since they don’t care who Señora Marián is, in other words, the novel doesn’t care, either. Melchor must have been aware of the risks of this decision: if the novel doesn’t care, why should the reader? ... Melchor seems fascinated by the gratuitousness of violence, by the absence of any sense of responsibility.
Paradais has a tighter focus than Hurricane Season (both are superbly translated into English by Sophie Hughes). Its sentences are less breathless and serpentine, but its subject matter is equally challenging ... Incredible dark momentum ... The thematic violence of Paradais is duplicated at sentence level ... Amid this assaultive flood, however, fragments of a higher, more baroque register emerge ... These unexpected flourishes complicate the story, suggesting the presence of a less neutral narrator than much of the text has us suppose. That Melchor provides no other clue to their identity only adds to the disconcerting effect.
Macabre characters drive the plot and slithering syntax the prose, guiding Melchor’s tale into the shadows of a society locked by chains ... Between the basic instincts and curdled socialization that boil the plot, the story’s thrill only grows in catastrophic momentum ... Melchor’s prose undulates with shifting clauses and semantic chaos ... Melchor has added a necessary work to the gothic genre resonant with the social fragilities of today's Mexico, the geopolitical vulnerability it speaks to defiant of aesthetic pretensions and moralistic conclusions. Amidst the black river that flows out in the margins of the sea, the relations between characters who populate the world's parasitic tendencies, and the cavernous fate to which the protagonists are brought, there is no redemption in this paradise lost.
Basically, Battles in the Desert took a cryogenic nap and woke up post apocalypse as Paradais ... acidic free-indirect prose ... With Hurricane Season, Melchor adopted a spiraling structure that made its central victim (and its central perpetrator) the eye of the storm. But her new novel follows the alienated Polo on his arrow-straight path to violence. Melchor confines us to his perspective, delivered in a claustrophobic third-person soliloquy, chronological but inflected with hindsight ... From the outside, Paradais might sound like a recipe for sensationalism of a sort especially liable to be consumed by Americans, particularly those narcodrama junkies whose pants moisten at the book jacket’s promise to deliver an exploration of the 'explosive fragility of Mexican society—with its racist, classist, hyperviolent tendencies.' If sensationalism distorts its subjects in service of fantasy, that’s a dead-on description of what Franco is up to; his repulsive pipe dreams of power and virility are cribbed straight from the videos he binges. But Melchor is not responsible for that distortion, only for documenting it. She exposes Franco’s delusion by miring herself in it. Paradais proves J. M. Coetzee’s point that it is 'hard, perhaps impossible, to make a novel that is recognisably a novel out of the life of someone who is from beginning to end comfortably sustained by fictions. We make a novel only by exposing those fictions' ... It is precisely this awkwardness that animates Melchor’s depictions of violence and underlines its degradation ... If what Sergio González Rodríguez termed the 'femicide machine' likes to work in the dark, Melchor shines an inspector’s flashlight on its greasy gears. She does not fix it or throw a wrench in it; she scrutinizes it up close, as if to see if it will malfunction under pressure, perhaps even setting the flashlight down to man the machine herself. Her hands get dirty—but no dirtier than the reader’s, holding the book, laughing at its cruel humor, wincing hypocritically when that humor metamorphoses into violence.
Melchor writes about these matters in about the least glutted, least ugly way one can. Violence in Paradais...isn’t a narrative trick but a reflection of reality ... A unique talent of Melchor’s [is] to make the third-person voice feel miraculously close to a character’s consciousness, so much so that one often forgets the book isn’t in first-person, that Polo isn’t really talking ... You won’t get justice. Fernanda Melchor’s view from Paradais is one of grim brutality, unpunished and unequal ... Melchor delivers us to her fool’s paradise with merciless precision, stripped of narrative luxuries like vengeance or confession, and instead debarking for a land where violence is simply a descriptive feature.
Paradais is a slimmer work than Hurricane Season, but Melchor hasn’t let up on the oppressive darkness and violence that pervades her work. She covers many of the same themes across both books, with the toxic effects of masculinity again being the prism through which our main character’s world views refract ... The novel sometimes fall foul to plodding attempts at social commentary ... Still, Paradais is concise and streamlined enough for its few faults to be pardoned ... Excellent ... As grotesque and provocative as she is, there is something oddly soothing about finding yourself in Melchor’s sick little world.
A much slimmer, tauter book, but occupies a similar world [as Hurrican Season]. Here, though, the climax – another brutal act – happens not at the start but at the end, and we know from the opening pages who does it and why ... Paradais has the intensity of a short story, and it might seem like the escalation of events is too extreme to be truly believable.But Melchor’s prose, in Sophie Hughes’s virtuosic translation, is so potent that the story’s pace never feels outlandish ... The ferocity of the novel – and, be warned, it is a queasy read – may invite accusations of gratuitousness, but everything in it is channelled so impeccably through the minds of these two young men that the climax feels less like cartoonish horror than the logical endpoint ... Melchor – surely one of the most talented and innovative novelists around – finds nuance in the depraved and the unforgivable.
Life’s blights are always conveyed from within her characters’ minds, mostly in free indirect style, mixed with direct or reported speech. Melchor has created a lusciously carnal brand of orality (as she has pointed out, few would understand the way Veracruzans really talk). One novel has no paragraph breaks at all, and her sentences can be extremely long, in an overarching past tense that makes a change from the primacy of the present in contemporary fiction ... If her work risks airlessness with its identity of form and content – violent experience expressed in violent language – it makes up for this with an irresistible propulsive energy ... reads more easily than its predecessor, lacking Hurricane’s bewildering profusion. But it is slighter: the narrator is eaten by resentment, something necessarily repetitive ... their refusal to comfort or spare the reader in any way is what makes them so exciting seen from an Anglo-American panorama where the redemptive and uplifting threaten to kill us with kindness.
... a slim but no less powerful read ... provocative and terrifying ...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.
The profanities, automatic and disposable, regain their luster: By parading next to words removed from the daily register...the author forces us to read her novel with the concentration we reserve for poetry ... This is a book that turns the ordinary into something strange, the vulgar (in its double meaning, popular and obscene) into art.
... disturbing ... [Melchor's] translator for both novels, Sophie Hughes, deserves immense credit for capturing the vitality of the prose. But fair warning that this book teems with violence: graphic and aggressive sexual fantasies, anti-gay slurs, incest, murder, torture. If you’re new to Melchor’s work, it might take several pages to adjust. Her sentences contain more clauses than seemingly feasible; single paragraphs run for pages and pages. The visual effect is daunting — an unbroken wall of text — and would perhaps be off-putting if the writing weren’t so seductive. Once you’re acclimated to both the style and the sheer rancor of the prose, you’ll notice other things: flourishes, the attention to the natural world, poetic turns of phrase, shrewd sketches of the indignities of menial labor ... Melchor’s Miltonian talent is imbuing 'evil' with psychological complexity ... the stroke of genius here is cleaving one monster into two.
Exhilerating ... Brilliant and blinding ... Gushes forth in vigorous and brooding narration ... What makes Melchor's fiction so enthralling is the fortified complexity of her sentences, again under the superb stewardship of translator Sophie Hughes. They are intricate and cyclical, exhibiting a deep understanding of gender violence. Melchor ruminates on moment after disturbing moment ... Short and potent, Paradais forcefully casts aside flippant cliches like 'boys will be boys' with chilling consequence.
Nightmarish ... This novel is told in long sentences and paragraphs, lending it a fever-dream quality that is, at its most intense, almost sickening. Also like its predecessor, it’s filled with harsh profanity, violence, and disturbing sex; even the most open-minded will find it difficult to read in parts. But there’s nothing exploitative here—it’s horrifying but never gratuitous; Melchor uses shock to lay bare issues of classism, misogyny, and the ravages of child abuse. Her prose, ably translated by Hughes, is dizzying but effective; it’s as if she’s holding the reader’s head and daring them to look away from the social problems she brings to light. This might be a deeply disconcerting novel, but it’s also a brave one ... A fever dream that's as hard to read as it is brilliant.