It’s publication day for Witches by Brenda Lozano, translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary, and I’m thrilled to have an extract to share with you from this intriguing sounding book. I have recently been enjoying quite a bit of fiction in translation and would like to thank Milly Reid for sending me a copy of Witches.
Published by MacLehose Press today, 14th April 2022, Witches is available for purchase through the links here.
A remarkable novel by one of the most exciting new voices in Latin America today
This is the story of who Feliciana is, and of who Paloma was.
I had wanted to get to know them, but I realised right away that the people I needed to know better were my sister Leandra and my mother. Myself. I came to understand that you can’t really know another woman until you know yourself…
Weaving together two parallel narratives, Witches tells the story of Feliciana, an indigenous curandera or healer, and Zoe, a journalist: two women who meet through the murder of Feliciana’s cousin Paloma.
In the tiny village of San Felipe in Jalisco province, where traditional ways and traditional beliefs are a present reality, Feliciana tells the story of her life, her community’s acceptance of her as a genuine curandera and the difficult choices faced by her joyful and spirited cousin Paloma who is both a healer and a Muxe – a trans woman.
Growing up in Mexico City, Zoe attempts to find her way in a society straitjacketed by its hostile macho culture. But it is Feliciana’s and Paloma’s stories that draw her own story out of her, taking her on a journey to understanding her place in the world and the power of her voice.
This captivating novel of two Mexicos envisions the writer as a healer and offers a generous and distinctly female way of understanding the complex world we all inhabit.
Translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary
An Extract from Witches
It was six at night when Guadalupe came to tell me they had killed Paloma. I don’t remember times or dates, I don’t know when I was born because I was born like the mountain was, go ask the mountain when it was born, but I know it was six at night when Guadalupe came to say they killed Paloma as she was getting ready to go out, I saw her there in her room, I saw her body on the floor and the shine for her eyes on her fingers and I saw her hands they were two in the mirror and the shine was on both like she had just put it on her eyes, like she could get up to put some on mine.
Paloma loved many men who didn’t love her back and she loved many men who did, they came one after another to her vigil and her vigil was like a vela. My sister Francisca and I had Paloma from my father’s side, she was the only thing we had from his family, she was the daughter of my father’s brother Gaspar, who also is dead. Paloma was the only one who carried the curandero blood of my father and my grandfather and of my great-grandfather the curandero, she was the one who taught me what I know, she was the one who told me, Feliciana, you’re a curandera because you carry it in your blood. She told me, This is how you do this thing or the other and that’s not how you do that, and she told me, You have the Language, love, she was the one who said, Feliciana, you are the curandera of the Language because yours is the Book. Paloma cured many men who didn’t love her and many men who did, she cured many people and told others their future and told them the future of affections in bloom or of affections that had wilted and turned to hate, and people liked her for that, because she was good at giving advice about love, people laughed with her and they went to her because she was good at giving advice about love.
Death called to Paloma three times. The first time it called to her was when she fell in love with a politician, death laid its egg in her then. It called for her the second time when she loved a loveless man and that time death trilled its song in her ear. The third time death called to her was when she loved a man from the city who had a disease still unborn but soon to be, and death sang to her as clear as the sun that it would come to her at six the night Guadalupe came to me to say they killed her with the shine on her fingers and I saw her in the mirror two times and two times she looked so alive except for the stain of blood spreading under her. A terrible hour, I remember that terrible hour. For me, it was six at night everywhere in the world, six at night today and yesterday and tomorrow, and for all time, and even though each place has its own clock, its own time and its own tongue, for me the only time and tongue and the only words were those ones because Guadalupe had come to say they killed Paloma. It was six at night and shadows fell across the milpa, it was exactly six at night when the Language left me.
Doesn’t that sound intriguing?
About Brenda Lozano
Brenda Lozano is a fiction writer, essayist and editor. Born in Mexico City, she studied literature in Mexico and the United States. She has participated in literary residencies in the US, Europe and Latin America, and her work has appeared in several anthologies, including Mexico20 and Bogotá39. She edits the literary journal Make in Chicago and is part of Ugly Duckling Presse in New York. She is the author of two earlier novels, Todo nada (2009), which is currently being adapted for the screen, and Cuaderno Ideal (2015), recently published by Charco Press in an English translation by Annie McDermott as Loop, and a book of short stories, Cómo piensan las piedras (2017). In 2015, she was recognised by Conaculta, the Hay Festival and the British Council as one of the most important authors under forty years of age from Mexico, and in 2017 she was selected by the Hay Festival for Bogotá 39, a list of the most outstanding new authors from Latin America. She currently lives in Mexico City.
You can follow Brenda on Twitter @heraclesmigato.
About Heather Cleary
Heather Cleary is a translator and writer based in New York and Mexico City. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications. In addition to her translation work, Heather has served on the jury of the National Book Award in Translation (2020), the Best Translated Book Award (2016), and the PEN Translation Award (2015), and often speaks about contemporary Latin American literature and/or translation. She holds an MA in Comparative Literature from NYU and a PhD in Latin American and Iberian Cultures from Columbia University, and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.