Described as “a literary atomic bomb” (Luisán Gámez), Mexican literary star Emiliano Monge’s English-language debut is the Latin American incarnation of Cormac McCarthy: an artistically daring, gorgeously wrought, and eviscerating novel of biblical violence as told through the story of a man “who, though he did not know it, was the era in which he lived.”
Set on a desolate, unnamed mesa, Emiliano Monge’s The Arid Sky distills the essence of a Latin America ruthlessly hollowed out by uncontainable violence. This is an unsparing yet magnificent land, whose only constants are loneliness, hatred, loyalty, and the struggle to return some small measure of meaning to life.
Thundering and inventive, The Arid Sky narrates the signature moments in the life of Germán Alcantara Carnero: a man who is both exaltedly, viscerally real and is an ageless, nameless being capable of embodying entire eras, cultures, and conflicts. Monge’s roadmap—an escape across borders, the disappearance of a young girl, the confrontation between a father and his son, the birth of a sick child, and murder—takes readers on a journey to the core of humankind that posits a challenge of the kind only great literature can pose.
“A blood-soaked yet lyrical story of regrets, memories, and the faint possibility of redemption, set in a parched Mexican mesa. Monge's first novel to be translated into English will open one of Mexico's most talented young writers to a new audience... Monge's sentences reflect the meandering structure, dizzying the reader with complexity and beauty….this style reflects Monge's overall message about the morphing shape of memories and how they all combine to form a person….Monge's novel is a brutal gem of a book concerned with the burdens of the past.”
“This dark, sprawling novel is the English language debut of Emiliano Monge, a Mexican writer who is often compared to the US literary superstar Cormac McCarthy. Written in a tone that evokes McCarthy’s unrelenting classic Blood Meridian, the novel tells the story of Germán Alcántara Carnero, a dangerous campesino fighting to survive in rural 20th century Mexico, and also a metaphor for the spiraling violence of contemporary Mexican society. The novel’s opening gambit: “This is the story of a man who, unbeknownst to him, was his century,” is without doubt one for the ages.”
—Stephen Woodman, Culture Trip, The Best Latin American Books Coming Out in 2018
“Rarely can we witness literature like this.”
—Miguel Ángel Ángeles, Rolling Stone
In Monge's uneven English-language debut, the life of a ruthless outlaw turned even more ruthless head of a small state ministry is examined in a series of non-sequential but interlocking segments. That man is G rman Alc ntara Carnero, aka El Gringo, who is also called by an ever-increasing number of fourth wall breaking nicknames throughout the book, the most prominent being "ourman." He's the only son of a violent, bedridden father and blind, abused mother. His brutal rise to power leaves the scorched lands of his fictional North Mexican home region, the Mesa Madre Buena, as riddled with corpses as his conscience is with guilt. Carnero is an intriguing antihero, and the language, as translated by Bunstead, has its moments of spare sublimity, most often while describing the blasted landscape: "He cuts into the part of the land where at certain times of the year beanstalks and at others alfalfa and sorghum and grass and corn grow, in haphazard manner: a manner replicated by almost everything on this plain and thus by this story as well." Yet however self-knowing its narrative, the story is undercut by its ambitious but clunky structure and an unnecessarily metafictive narrator whose presence in the story is never sufficiently explained. The result is a bold but cloudy narrative.