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Family of 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa Normal school lead a protest, September 26, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo: Brett Gundlock/Getty Images.
Family of 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa Normal school lead a protest, September 26, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo: Brett Gundlock/Getty Images.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II and the Mexican Crime Novel: Finding Truth over Justice

Paco Ignacio Taibo II confronts the deep-rooted corruption of Mexico through the crime novel genre, where there are few happy endings. It doesn't mean he isn't…

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You’d think a 23-year-old white American wouldn’t have any connection to the gritty, dark comedy found in the novels of Paco Ignacio Taibo II, especially his series following private detective Hector Belascoarán Shayne through the streets of a corrupt, but charming Mexico City.

You’re right. I don’t. But one time, as a 19-year old studying abroad in northern Spain, I unknowingly stumbled upon the festivities of Taibo II’s annual “Semana Negra” in his hometown of Gijón. It is a week-long celebration of crime novels.

At the time, I was just looking for a good club to dance, or bar to indulge in something I couldn’t do back in the states. I thought it was odd the entire city would celebrate a genre of literature, but quickly learned not to question the partying motivations of Spaniards. 

It would take four years before I learned the brilliance of the festival’s founder.

On July 29, I talked with Dr. Raúl Diego Rivera Hernández from Villanova for the eleventh episode of Literatura Oral to explore Taibo II’s “No Habra Final Feliz”, the fourth novel in his series about Detective Belascoarán Shayne.

Taibo II’s Neo-policial

Taibo II was a revolutionary, not just in the topics he chose to confront in Mexican society, but also in the annals of Latin American literary history. He pioneered a new take on the classic neo-policial genre that uses the crime novel to be critical of the government and delve into the experiences of those living under its oppression.

His inspiration in “No Habra Final Feliz” (There’s No Happy Ending) is the June 10, 1971 mass murder of student demonstrators in Mexico City, known as El Halconazo. Many blame a shady government organization known as Los Halcones for the massacre, but the crime has never been solved.

Confronting the real world

The atmosphere felt throughout the novel is one of disenchantment, brought by either Belascoarán’s interactions with the public or Mother nature. It’s a feeling brought under circumstances of government corruption and oppression. 

Rather than strive for justice, Taibo II’s protagonist fights for the truth. It may not provide the happy ending most readers want, but is a sobering reminder of the very real circumstances that Mexico dealt with in the past, and continues to cope with into the future.

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