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  • Writer's pictureJoan Fernandez

Signs Preceding the End of the World

By Yuri Herrera

Literary masterpiece and allegory of migrant experience

Like slipping an exacto knife in between the tender layers of ego and desire and intention and loss, phrases, similes, and metaphors in of this brilliant literary book slices to the essence of description. The story is about a woman who must go from Mexico to the US, traveling with migrants to cross the border, in order to find her brother. Herrera’s narrative is smart, sharp-witted and feels like its wit and wisdom come from someone ancient. The end of the world allegory has multiple meanings…the migrant experience, Dante’s inferno…but also eludes to language and how translations elicit differences in interpretation and ideas. Kudos to the translator, Lisa Dillman, for her sensitive translation, including coining a new verb, “verse,” to mean all sorts of leaving.

Examples of a few exacto knife gems: “…the weariness of a man who knows he’s being played and can’t do a thing about it.” And “He didn’t brush up against her, but he felt her up with his breath, the son of a bitch.” And “[He] smiled, sinister, with all the artlessness of a snake disguised as a man coiling around your legs.”

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