Author of the acclaimed novel Hurricane Season, Fernanda Melchor leads us into a different kind of hell: paradise
Inside a luxury housing complex, two misfit teenagers sneak around and get drunk. Franco Andrade, lonely, overweight, and addicted to porn, obsessively fantasizes about seducing his neighbor—an attractive married woman and mother—while Polo dreams about quitting his grueling job as a gardener within the gated community and fleeing his overbearing mother and their narco-controlled village. Each facing the impossibility of getting what he thinks he deserves, Franco and Polo hatch a mindless and macabre scheme.
Written in a chilling torrent of prose by one of our most thrilling new writers, Paradais explores the explosive fragility of Mexican society—with its racist, classist, hyperviolent tendencies—and how the myths, desires, and hardships of teenagers can tear life apart at the seams.
Sophie Hughes has also translated José Revueltas and Enrique Vila-Matas for New Directions. She was shortlisted for the 2019 and 2020 International Booker Prize.
— Mariana Enríquez
Melchor evokes the stories of Flannery O’Connor, or, more recently, Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings. Impressive
— Julian Lucas - The New York Times
Fernanda Melchor has a powerful voice, and by powerful I mean unsparing, devastating, the voice of someone who writes with rage, and has the skill to pull it off.
— Samanta Schweblin
Like Hurricane Season, this novel is told in long sentences and paragraphs, lending it a fever-dream quality that is, at its most intense, almost sickening… [H]orrifying 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.
— Kirkus, (Starred Review)
Coming off her last novel, Hurricane Season, Melchor has proven to be one of Mexico’s most tantalizing writers, and Paradais continues her examination into the metaphysical assault embedded in patriarchy and classism. Her appetite for cutting descriptions of sex and actual violence make this short, subversive novel terrifying and hard to put down.
— Jessica Jacolbe - Vulture
With a nimble command of the novel’s technical resources and an uncanny grasp of the irrational forces at work in society, the books navigate a reality riven by violence, race, class, and sex…In Melchor’s world, there’s no resisting the violence, much less hating it. All a novelist can do, she seems to suggest, is take a long, unsparing look at the hell that we’ve made.
— Juan Gabriel Vásquez - The New Yorker
While her writing turns an unsparing eye on the dysfunction and violence of her native Veracruz, Melchor makes clear that it is neither her job nor her intention to explain her homeland. Her novels are less portraits of Mexico than they are literary MRIs, probing unseen corners of the human heart and finding that many of its darker shades are universal.
— Benjamin P. Russell - The New York Times
Melchor is an incredibly gifted writer.
— Justin Torres - The New York Times Book Review
Through the alchemy of translation, Sophie Hughes has reinterpreted the local slang of Melchor’s Mexican Spanish. The result is a linguistic marvel: a hybrid English that jumps between British and American dialects; a bastard tongue situated somewhere between LA pulp and something out of James Kelman. It’s a risky choice with an immense payoff.
— Henry Hietala - Cleveland Review of Books
Without moralizing, the Mexican writer Fernanda Melchor’s novels look unflinchingly at cruelty and poverty. Her work is a model for how to think about the ambiguity of human relations.
— Holly Connelly - Jacobin Magazine
Paradais is as engrossing as it is discomfiting. Sophie Hughes’ translation gives Melchor’s candid, lurid run-on sentences a galloping pace; nothing is softened or made more graceful, but the prose is insistent and propulsive while the story accrues guns and rapes and murder.
— Mark Athitakis - On the Seawall