Ireland Quiroga was taught cross stitch at a Catholic school. Years later, she used her learned sewing to carefully stitch – and with a pumpkin inside – the dead limb of a man she has kidnapped at home. When the stitches don’t hold the weight of the vegetable and the skin cracks, curse the school again. Remembering this scene from Hare face, her third novel, Liliana Blum laughs on the other side of the screen. “The skills you learn you never know when they will be useful,” says this red-haired woman who has a sweet voice and a wide smile.
In the new book, published by Seix Barral, Blum tells the story of a woman who was born “monstrous” and wonders if that has forced her to become a monster. Every time that Ireland goes hunting at La Cebolla de Cristal, a fictional bar located in Durango, she considers the possibility of turning around and going home alone to see a romantic movie. But he doesn’t tonight. De Prea chooses the plump, blue-eyed vocalist from a group no one knows about. Across town, a woman — a Pisces, a budding painter with a low-paying job and a tiny apartment — stubbornly searches for the man who got her pregnant. With these protagonists, the Mexican weaves a story of cruelty and courage in which hope is foolish.
Blum (Durango, 1974) says that she is used to old women asking her why she writes about such ugly things. His second novel, The pentapod monster, It is about a pedophile who is a very good neighbor; the first, Pandora, from the sexual paraphilia that a man who seems to have everything has with an obese woman. “The dark part in my books will remain because it is part of my vision of the world,” he explains.
The writer tries to explore the complexity of violence in each work. Is someone so bad that they kill someone bad? “I wanted here to show that people who commit murders or extraordinary things, even while in Mexico, are not so different from us. There comes a time when life can take you to a point where you never expected to be. And standing on that shore, the options become very different. I believe a lot in free will. For example, there is a scene where Ireland stops and says: ‘If I move forward, there is no return. He knows that he can stop there and for some reason he prefers not to ”, he reasons.
She is convinced that this violence is more likely to explode in Mexico where nine out of 10 crimes go unpunished. “It is not that our society is rotting, it is that the conditions have been given for the bad guys to walk around without worrying about anything. I can take a girl, rape her and dump her body in a street and not even the police will open an investigation folder, ”he says. “Perhaps in Switzerland there are the same number of men who would want to kill women, but they know that there is a high probability that they will end up in jail. Then they stop or, at least, they think about it a lot. And here you can do anything. That awakens the worst in people. Human nature is terrifying. “
Understanding the dark side has always been Blum’s goal, who has spent every fall in his native country – except for the four years he studied at the University of Kansas – away from the capital. In Hare faceOnly the sweet potato cart and Mrs. Hortensia who serves chicken with mole and hibiscus water in the morning reveal that the action takes place in Mexico. “For me the place where something happens is the background, but it is not decisive as for many novelists, that the city becomes the protagonist. That bores me a bit. My first novel, Pandora, I did not place it in any specific place and it was one of the criticisms. From there, I put the next two in Durango, because here I am. But it doesn’t matter if it’s Canada, Madrid or Mexico City, I’m interested in the characters and why they move the way they do, ”he answers.
—How much are you interested in telling Mexico then?
—I am interested that certain readers understand what women of this time are like in a society like Mexico, but it could be Venezuela, Colombia or Argentina. The way I write and look is Mexican, but I’m not interested in portraying Mexico, but rather the universe in which women live and the things we face regardless of our passport.
Blum refers to the fear and impunity of femicides, but also the yoke of maintaining a body that fits the strict molds of society. “Women are judged and we judge ourselves primarily on three things: youth, thinness and beauty. The moment we pass a certain age we become invisible. Women who don’t physically fit the standards are at an absolute disadvantage. Instead, men will be bald, obese, smell bad, but if they have some fame, money or power, they have other cards to trade. Women are sometimes not even given a chance to show their intelligence or sympathy. The only thing left is that she is fat, she is ugly, “he reflects.” The women in my novels fight against that every day. “