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Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo…

Down the Rabbit Hole (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Juan Pablo Villalobos

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1951360,388 (3.65)50
Title:Down the Rabbit Hole
Authors:Juan Pablo Villalobos
Info:And Other Stories (2011), Paperback, 130 pages
Collections:Read, Read but unowned (inactive)

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Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos (2010)

  1. 00
    Trabajos del Reino (Spanish Edition) by Yuri Herrera (CecileB)
    CecileB: Ce sont deux romans qui dénoncent le climat qu'impose au Mexique le trafic de la drogue.

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
The novel started and I couldn't fathom that its short word-count would add up to much at all. Tochtli's voice is simple, despite its precociousness, and a reader could be forgiven for finding themselves wondering about the mysteries happening off-stage while Tochtli is off talking about his hats. But as with any young child, if you pay a little more attention, you'll see that they're experiencing the world in ways wholly different from you and I - ways that reveal so much more than is readily apparent. It's that that makes Villalobos' book so successful and so ultimately powerful, despite its diminutive stature.
Also, how terrific is the front cover illustration of the young boy with the hats and the samurai sword riding a pygmy hippo? Adorable.

More at RB: http://wp.me/pGVzJ-Ml ( )
1 vote drewsof | Oct 24, 2013 |
Life with a South American drug baron through the all seeing but not all comprehending eyes of his 10 year-old son.

I think I myself am too naive to be able to join the dots properly - in the end the truth of the events described remained obscure. ( )
  jtck121166 | Aug 27, 2013 |
I loved this novella so, so much, and fought the urge to re-read it as soon as I finished (because I had too many other books to complete). The narrative, as channeled through the young son of a drug baron who’s cooped up in a large mansion in Mexico, is playful and chuckle-inducing. I’m pretty amazed that this voice—childish, precocious, inadvertently funny—came through so well in the translation from Spanish, so kudos to the translator. This young boy loves to collect hats, uses big words he gets from the dictionary (endearingly and incorrectly), and longs for a Liberian pygmy hippopotamus to add to his collection of animals--in a world that's feels quirky, surreal,and menacing. On the edges of his matter-of-fact narration on things like whether, among his handful of acquaintances, he can count the ones that died; the macabre game he plays with his dad in guessing how many bullets it takes to kill people; and news accounts of severed heads and body parts, we see glimpses of the Mexican drug war playing out in a landscape that’s corrupt and violent. While it seems like this is the only world that the isolated boy knows, he seems also to sense that something is not quite right, and this makes the story all the more heartbreaking.

I always find it harder to write a review of the books that I’m so enamored with—it just feels like I’d never be able to truly capture how tremendous the book is and why it struck a chord. And this is the case with Down the Rabbit Hole. I’m eagerly awaiting Villalobos’ next work.
( )
3 vote Samchan | Mar 31, 2013 |
This short novel (more of a novella or novelette really) is a dark comedy about the isolated life of a paranoid drug lord as told by his 10 year old son. Tochti is a motherless kid with some odd interests: samurai, dictionaries and words, and hats, and he really wants a pygmy hippopotamus for his collection. He lives in isolation in a palatial estate, knowing only a few people. His tutor, the cook, the two bodyguards, his father's girlfriend. And Tochti is learning the lingo of the drug trade.

I thought the book an interesting and enjoyable read, a sad book because Tochti's innocence in being chipped away at before our eyes. Yet, it's darkly comic, taking something tragic and making it funny and often absurd. It's been highly praised and was short-listed for the Guardian first book prize, but I can't rave about it. Vilalobos is clearly a talented new writer and worth watching. ( )
2 vote avaland | Jan 12, 2013 |
Rating: 4* of five

The Book Description: “A brief and majestic debut.” —Matías Néspolo, El Mundo

Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines, and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants, and the odd corrupt politician or two. Long-listed for The Guardian First Book Award, Down the Rabbit Hole, a masterful and darkly comic first novel, is the chronicle of a delirious journey to grant a child’s wish.

My Review: First, I must get this off my chest: THIS IS NOT A NOVEL. At ~35,000 words, it could be called a novella, a work of 15,000 to 40,000 words (definitions vary on this point, but ALL definitions include 30,000-40,000 words in them and this is that length) that features fewer conflicts than a full novel and more complex ones than a short story. I don't think it's a novella because it's a first-person story and features only one fully developed character, Tochtli (“Rabbit” in Nahuatl, relax we'll get there). It's a récit , a form of narrative that has a simple through line, is told from one PoV and quite often in first-person present and past, and offers little in the way of contextualization, of “world-building,” as it's all in the narrator's PoV. I hate the publisher and the trade folk yip-yapping NOVELNOVELNOVEL about a 70-page (generous margins, several blank pages in the text) so as to get over the reading public's aversion to “lesser” forms. How about we review the piece as it is, and urge the reading public to read it without misleading them? Someone buying a novel expects that it will do what novels do, really explore one or two conflicts with results and resultant changes in characters' lives. Not happenin' here.

Well, okay, I'm all shouted out now.

Terrific story, this one of a drug king's kid and the many oddities paranoia and isolation have allowed to blossom in him. The names, all taken from Mexico's major native tongue of Nahuatl (the Aztecs spoke it), are all of animals...the narrator's name means Rabbit, his father's name means Rattlesnake, his tutor's name means Deer, and on. They're all like gang nicknames, playing on the culture of nicknames that describe some major thing about a person. Rattlesnake? How can you not perceive a drug lord as a cold-blooded, dangerous, venomous critter? Rabbit? Scared, small, needs to be hidden away—suits our narrator's life to a T.

Translator Rosalind Harvey has done a marvelous, if British, job of rendering a precocious kid's usages and crotchets into spottily adult language. I haven't read the original Spanish, so I don't know how faithfully she's reproduced Villalobos's original, but I suspect quite well. The language has that certain “feel” that good translations do, a kind of smoothness and polished gleam that speak of quality made from quality. That Tochtli is an odd kid is to be expected, that he uses (frequently!) words he's just learning is to be expected, and since those words...sordid, pathetic, devastating...are a little above his actual grasp, the author's use of them in the kid's mouth makes several very trenchant points.

Yolcaut (Rattlesnake) watched the news with me and when it was over he said some enigmatic things to me, First he said:
“Ah, they suicided her.”
And then, when he'd stopped laughing:
“Think the worst and you'll be right.”
Sometimes Yolcaut speaks in enigmatic and mysterious sentences. When he does that it's pointless to ask him what he means, because he never tells me. He wants me to solve the enigma.
Before I went to sleep I looked up the word prestige in the dictionary. I learned that prestige is about people having a good idea about you, and thinking you're the best. In that case you have prestige. Pathetic.(p21, American softcover edition)

It's all part of building the reader's awareness of the twisted, strange, uncomfortably exaggerated natural parental protection of our kids. Other details include Tochtli's always painful stomach cramps that the doctor can't find a cause for, Tochtli's obsessive passions for things like being a Japanese samurai who's mute and therefore enigmatic (!), his endless list-making. The kid would've been strange no matter what, but Yolcaut (Nahuatl has no dipthongs, so say each letter as if it were a Spanish vowel or a Basque consonant) being what and who he is has made the problems giant-sized.

It's a disquieting little thing, and it's quite darkly amusing, and it's—Praise the Muses!—it's original. It's balm for a weary-of-~meh~ reader's soul. You'll love it, or you'll hate it, but you won't walk away wondering what it was that you just read. ( )
11 vote richardderus | Jan 6, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
A story told by the young son of a Mexican drug lord, it, like Room, is a study in isolation, and full of the pathos of the child's incomplete understanding. The child, Tochtli (or "rabbit" in Nahautl, Mexico's indigenous language), also has an occasionally precocious vocabulary – but we have a plausible explanation for this: he reads the dictionary before he goes to bed. And so his word-hoard includes, apart from the standard simple signifiers, such oddities as "sordid", "disastrous", "immaculate", "pathetic" and "devastating".

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Juan Pablo Villalobosprimary authorall editionscalculated
Harvey, RosalindTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thirlwell, AdamIntroductionmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants and the odd corrupt politician or two.
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What Tochtli wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is growing up in his drug baron father's luxury hideout, shared with hit men and dealers. Down the Rabbit Hole, a masterful and darkly-comic first novel, is the chronicle of a delirious journey to grant a child's wish.… (more)

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