"Both a wicked satire of the literary élite and an exploration of art and violence . . . Terrifying, brilliant, and dangerous." —The New Yorker
Mona, a Peruvian writer based in California, presents a tough and sardonic exterior. She likes drugs and cigarettes, and when she learns that she is something of an anthropological curiosity—a woman writer of color treasured at her university for the flourish of rarefied diversity she brings—she pokes fun at American academic culture and its fixation on identity.
When she is nominated for “the most important literary award in Europe,” Mona sees a chance to escape her downward spiral of sunlit substance abuse and erotic distraction, so she trades the temptations of California for a small, gray village in Sweden, close to the Arctic Circle. Now she is stuck in the company of all her jet-lagged—and mostly male—competitors, arriving from Japan, France, Armenia, Iran, and Colombia. Isolated as they are, the writers do what writers do: exchange compliments, nurse envy and private resentments, stab rivals in the back, and hop in bed together. All the while, Mona keeps stumbling across the mysterious traces of a violence she cannot explain.
As her adventures in Scandinavia unfold, Mona finds that she has not so much escaped her demons as locked herself up with them in the middle of nowhere. In Mona, Pola Oloixarac paints a hypnotic, scabrous, and ultimately jaw-dropping portrait of a woman facing down a hipster elite to which she does and does not belong. A survivor of both patronization and bizarre sexual encounters, Mona is a new kind of feminist. But her past won’t stay past, and strange forces are working to deliver her the test of a lifetime.
Argentinian writer Oloixarac (Dark Constellations) offers a smart, provocative take on contemporary literary culture. At the novel's opening, Stanford doctoral candidate Mona, a deeply cynical Peruvian, wakes up on a train platform in Palo Alto, Calif., with her body badly bruised and no memory of how she came to be in such a state. She quickly cleans up so she can travel to Sweden for a conference where she's been nominated for an award. At the event, speakers express anxiety about technology's impact on literature, but far more interesting are Mona's exchanges with fellow writers and her theory-infused interior monologues. Aware that being a Latina gives her a "chic sort of cultural capital" with American universities, she reflects on the tendency of writers to play up "their own local colors." After Mona hooks up with another writer who notices her bruises, her memories of the injuries sustained back at Stanford start to return. While a sudden and not entirely successful swerve into fantasy makes for an abrupt ending, Mona's spirited opining gives readers much to engage and argue with. The rich inner life of its namesake character propels this vibrant examination of the writing world.