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Tomb Song by Julián Herbert
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Tomb Song (2011)

by Julián Herbert

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Tomb Song is the story of a man sitting in his mother's hospital room, waiting for her to die. She was a prostitute and his life involved a lot of temporary fathers and moving around. Sounds like a book seeped in misery, doesn't it? Despite the scaffolding, Julián Herbert has written a surprisingly upbeat and honest novel.

This isn't a book propelled forward by the plot; it digresses, it heads off onto tangents, it meanders, returning to earlier topics, while abandoning others. The narrator waits. He cares for his mother. He follows often conflicting instructions from the nurses and doctors. He walks the halls, and thinks about his past, from his childhood to the trips he took to Berlin with his wife. Parts of the story are fascinating, some were less enthralling.

The writing style of this novel reminded me of another Mexican novel, Valeria Luiselli's The Story of My Teeth, although that may also be influenced by having the same translator. If you like discursive novels, you'll want to take a look at Tomb Song. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Jun 18, 2018 |
This took me some time to appreciate, but then I raced towards the end. A little meta-writerly angst, during the hospice of mom. Not cheery but well done and painfully good. ( )
  kcshankd | Mar 22, 2018 |
Me encantó la naturalidad de las historias contadas por el autor Julián Herbert. Este mismo toma el papel de narrador y de personaje principal, contando la historia de su madre prostituta y su muerte por leucemia en un hospital de Saltillo. Sin llegar a ser autobiográfico, el personaje va contando historias de su niñez desarrolladas en los prostíbulos. Además realiza una crítica al país refiriendose a éste como La Suave Patria. Relata momentos actuales de violencia por el narcotráfico y sus repercusiones en Saltillo. ( )
  Rhafhaell | Dec 11, 2014 |
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Sitting at the bedside of his mother as she is dying from leukemia in a hospital in northern Mexico, the narrator of Tomb Song is immersed in memories of his unstable boyhood and youth. His mother, Guadalupe, was a prostitute, and Julián spent his childhood with his half brothers and sisters, each from a different father, moving from city to city and from one tough neighborhood to the next.

Swinging from the present to the past and back again, Tomb Song is not only an affecting coming-of-age story but also a searching and sometimes frenetic portrait of the artist. As he wanders the hospital, from its buzzing upper floors to the haunted depths of the morgue, Julián tells fevered stories of his life as a writer, from a trip with his pregnant wife to a poetry festival in Berlin to a drug-fueled and possibly completely imagined trip to another festival in Cuba. Throughout, he portrays the margins of Mexican society as well as the attitudes, prejudices, contradictions, and occasionally absurd history of a country ravaged by corruption, violence, and dysfunction.

Inhabiting the fertile ground between fiction, memoir, and essay, Tomb Song is an electric prose performance, a kaleidoscopic, tender, and often darkly funny exploration of sex, love, and death. Julián Herbert’s English-language debut establishes him as one of the most audacious voices in contemporary letters.
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