5 Questions with Carmen Boullosa

texas stolenToday’s 5 Questions features one of Mexico’s leading novelists, Carmen Boullosa, whose work has been lauded on several continents. The late Roberto Bolaño has referred to Boullosa as “Mexico’s best woman writer.” She’s the author of 17 novels, her latest is Texas: The Great Theft (Deep Vellum) translated by Samantha Schnee. Carmen is at City Lights this Thursday at 7PM to discuss the book with critic and editor extraordinaire Scott Esposito.

Event: Thursday, February 12, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Carmen Boullosa in conversation with Scott Esposito.

About the Book: Loosely based on the little-known 1859 Mexican invasion of the United States, Carmen Boullosa’s newest novel Texas: The Great Theft is a richly imagined evocation of the volatile Tex-Mex borderland, wrested from Mexico in 1848. Boullosa views the border history through distinctly Mexican eyes, and her sympathetic portrayal of each of her wildly diverse characters—Mexican ranchers and Texas Rangers, Comanches and cowboys, German socialists and runaway slaves, Southern belles and dance hall girls—makes her storytelling tremendously powerful and absorbing. With today’s Mexican-American frontier such a front-burner concern, this novel that brilliantly illuminates its historical landscape is especially welcome. Texas is Boullosa’s fourth novel to appear in English, her previous novels were published by Grove Press.

About the Author: Carmen Boullosa is one of Mexico’s leading novelists, poets and playwrights. The prolific author, who has had literally scores of books, essays and dissertations written about her work. “As playful as a mischievous Puck,” says Elena Poniatowska; she has “a heart-stopping command of language,” says Alma Guillermoprieto; “one of the most dazzling of Latin America’s new generation,” according to Publishers Weekly.

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

Carmen Boullosa: I went to City Lights during my very first “honeymoon” (even though we weren’t married–we were madly in love– it counts as a real honeymoon), many, many years ago (1976?). City Lights got imprinted on my memory with an incomparable glamor: love, desire, fear … youth … and the turmoil I was in. It’s all I remember, as if I’d never been there before. In a way, it breaks my heart to return.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

CB: Texas had a soundtrack, in fact. A cowboy’s violin kept playing, first a mix of “La Bruja” (a Veracruzanian son) then a mix of other sones and corridos. Texas was a book that was singing itself all the time while I wrote it. I first tried to “write” the story of the violinist I was listening to, and then I understood I should only follow the tune, or play with it, and escape from it too. And I think I did.

CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?

CB: Can’t remember. I had no idea, as a kid, I could opt for not finishing a book; I devoured those left on my hands–except the missal, in Latin (and I bet it was unreadable anyway). There was no TV at home. I come from another era. My father read aloud to us, since forever. Maybe it was for sheer anxiety that I kept reading the books I started; maybe I felt that, if I stopped reading, I would loose my father … Now I really enjoy not finishing reading a book. Really. It’s a sport. I start a book, and even if I love it, I stop. A thrill!

ImgInt_CAR_CarmenBoullosa-15abr13CL: If you weren’t a writer, what might you do?

CB: No idea … Maybe rob banks? Or be a banker? They’re both equally illegitimate, no?

CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no Wi-Fi).

CB: A gun (I’m not sure I’d be happy to live with Carmen Boullosa all that time). A spoon. A beautiful white porcelain bowl. Several boxes of matches, to cook. A sleep mask. My sleeping pills. Some boxes of red wine. Others full of bottles of sparkling water. A glass. A comfy pajama. A pair of cotton sheets. Some dozens of notebooks, and pens. And the Bible. No missal, please!


The event with Carmen Boullosa and Scott Esposito is tonight at City Lights Books, 7PM, and is free and open to the public. For more about Texas: The Great Theft, check out the books page.

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