Estaban presos. Todo era un no darse cuenta de nada. De la vida. La cosa era que de cuando en cuando lanzaba un suspiro espeso y ronco. Nadien, este plural triste. De nadie era la culpa, del destino, de la vida, de la pinche suerte, de nadien.

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Shelves: fiction Great, really great. The translators deserve a prize. At less than 13, words, and written by Revueltas while he was a guest at Lecumberri Prison in Mexico, The Hole tells the story of Polonio, the Albino and the Prick and their plan to smuggle heroin into the prison theyre jonesing for a fix. The story is told in one unfolding paragraph, a barrage of words that mimics I have to assume the experience of living in a narrow cell where the only access to the outside world is a hatch large enough for a plate of soup and a small hole to see through.

The edition I read came with a very good Introduction by Alvaro Enrigue that provides background for Revueltas who was a political prisoner and historical context.

You can and should read it in one abbreviated sitting. And you should also sit with it, turn it over in your hands, reflect on it. Few books I have grappled with in recent memory are at the same time such rich and fascinating objects. One might wish to call it an artifact, though the fact remains that part of what makes this edition so fascinating is that it is a very current thing, providing access for North American readers to a massively important literary work wherefore they previously had none.

Should I call it a novel? Many will of course call it a novella. In reality, there are certainly even short stories out there that supersede it in word count. I am inclined to follow suit. Perhaps it is the meal in a pill progress always promised but never provided. But a feast. Or perhaps a very small thing of so profound a density as to consign it to a category of things science cannot yet properly comprehend. It is short on plot.

Three criminals, confined to the hole, await three female visitors who are to smuggle in heroin and hand it over to them under the camouflage of a diversionary uproar. Though a Marxist--and a Marxist more or less jailed for being a Marxist--Revueltas often found himself ill-fitted to leftist organizations and it is not hard to see why: he has few illusions about both the ugliness of oppression and the tendency of the oppressed to revert to barbarism. THE HOLE is the furthest possible thing from a socialist realist novel of proletarian determination and concomitant uplift.

It is a dismal and incendiary novel operating at the level of the irreducibly bestial. The guards are called "apes," and are just prisoners by another name. Our narrator imagines the guards at home. Everybody here has already been destroyed yet remains animated by consuming desperation. The prose is thick and torrential.

It contains and ultimately culminates in harrowing, indelible images. It sets out to do violence unto the brain what will not easily be erased nor easily effaced. It is revolutionary literature but about as far as things get from utopian. It is so unholy as to be sacred.

It is a cry from hell clamorous with pulsing life. It is a piece of Inferno. If you come to art for truth, truth here ye shall find, but an upsetting and disconcerting form of it. Revueltas may well have believed in solidarity, and prison stories often revel in its embattled manifestations, but you will not find evidence of it here. Survival and desperation are often productive of the most callow forms of self-seeking.

Ugly situations often lead to terminal behaviour and grave aberrations. Uncommonly powerful almost certainly because unpleasantly lived. Written in the prison that is the novels setting, a 50 page paragraph tells the real-time story of three men confined and going mad with drug withdrawal and three women making their way through the prison to cause a scene and deliver them heroin stuffed inside an old womans womb.

That connection of the womb and the cell is incredible. The introduction does an amazing job of explaining the history of this prison after building it, the architect was imprisoned in it!


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