A few years ago Jorge Diner accompanied his father to Dolores Civil Pantheonwhich occupies almost a third of the Chapultepec forest, in the Mexico City. In that foray, in which they were looking for an old family tomb that had not been visited in decades, the germ arose for “This emptiness that boils” (Alfaguara, 2022), his recent novel.

“There was no way to review the files, so you had to search the ground and only guided by memory,” the narrator specifies in an interview. That excursionin which they toured a large part of the place, became a pretext for Comensal to return to the pantheon, where he found “a true historical condensation wonder from all over Mexico, not only from Mexico City but from the entire country.”

“Once walking, looking for another tomb, I came across this precious and austere monument dedicated to Leonor Llorente de Callesat that time I did not know who she was, then I investigated and found out that she was the second wife of Plutarco Elias Calles, who was president of Mexico and the PRI. She was a soprano who died very young and to whom she had a fairly large plot of land in the pantheon, where Calles was also until her remains were transferred to the Monument of the Revolution”.

“His tomb was designed to have a reflecting pool in front of a stone stela on which they sculpted hands that protect the light of a candle. The mirror of water no longer exists, but the beautiful thing is that a layer of moss grew at the bottom that became a small garden, that’s why it seemed like a propitious tomb for the characters of the novel to pass through,” the author details. of “The Mutations”novel translated into a dozen languages.

And although the Pantheon of Dolores is the main setting of the book, the events take place in the futurein a time close to the year 2030. A game of temporality that gives a somewhat dystopian aura to the narrative, but without the grandiloquence of the Science fiction.

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“It’s such a near future that is confused with our present in many elements. I wanted there to be a small space to help the reader’s imagination to make this pact of credibility, that is to say that it looks like, but it is not a science fiction world, although there is already a cloning of panda bears. Nor is it a dystopian world because Mexico continues to function and yet things have changed, one of them is that the occurrence of extreme weather events like droughts and torrential rains,” explains Comensal, who presented this novel at the last Guadalajara International Book Fair.

$!Cemeteries, family secrets and the environmental crisis mark the new novel by Jorge Comensal

In “This emptiness that boils” a fire destroys the Chapultepec Zoo and affects the graves in the cemetery, a fact that will influence the lives of the characters in the novel. On the one hand, Karina, the protagonist searches the pantheon for the true cause of the death of her parents, which has been hidden from her for years; on the other hand, the daughter of the security guard of the place becomes a fierce environmental activist.

“With the fire that I imagined and that begins in the Dolores cemetery and extends to the entire Chapultepec Forest, I wanted to light several subjective bonfires of the different protagonists of the story. In the case of the watchman Silverio and his daughter Daeneris (whose name alludes to the central character of the series ‘Game of Thrones’) she feels the fire of concern precisely because of the mass extinction of species, environmental suffering, the deterioration of the biosphere and since, as her name suggests, she is mother of dragons and daughter of the storm, she becomes a passionate activist from 13 to 15 years old.

“She represents for me a symbol of hope of the change of the collective conscience, above all of the younger generations. If she existed in reality she would barely be a child now and she will be a teenager in 2030 and I hope, putting my grain of sand, that more and more of us are raising our voices trying to avoid the environmental devastation of the planet. Daeneris visits the zoo with her school a couple of weeks before the fire that devastated it, this passion is born there, which is one of the things that seems bright to me in history, ”she relates.

The Mexico City that Comensal describes is more chaotic than usual, a reflection of the confusion that invades the characters and that they are looking for something to believe in. Karina feels that she only knows the TRUE from your family history you will be able to get ahead; Silverio, the warden of the pantheon, seeks a connection with his daughter Daeneris, whom he does not see very often.

“I am convinced that we need to believe, we need help to order the world and not only can we live in the world of the objective, of the scientific. And this is very clear in the life of Karina, who is a doctoral student in Physics. Despite the fact that she dedicates herself to describing the world in the most objective way possible, her inner life confronts her again and again with the need to consider the existence of supernatural beings. Although we do not believe in them, they do exist in our minds, they come out of it and manifest themselves in the world of the novel in many ways and put the apparently objective vision of the world in crisis.

“Each of the characters has some kind of spiritual crisis and the need for a sense of belonging. Just as Daeneris finds in environmental radicalization a cause, a motive, also a tribe, so Silverio’s mother, after being widowed and depressed, does so in the church that he calls ‘the hallelujahs’. Silverio lacks that and tries to make up for it with many things, the same for Karina. In the pantheon you can see how many new forms of worship are being made to different saints, to the Holy death in particular, that it is something that can be gloomy in the context of crime and violence that exists in Mexico. That is only there, in the background of the novel, ”she concludes.

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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