Slum Lord

And why should it be worth something? If there are five, getting on for six, thousand million of us . . . just print the figure on a banknote and see what it's worth. When there's a five—let's say a six—with nine zeroes on the right, you're just one more zero on the left. A little titi monkey's worth more, the few that are left, and very fierce they are, too. We're nothing, parcerito, nothing, let's have done with this desire to be somebody and remind ourselves that around here there's nothing more ephemeral than yesterday's dead man.

We know from the outset that Alexis will be killed; given the weightless ease and frequency with which the book's Colombians are turned into corpses, it isn't especially surprising that Fernando mourns for a page or two and quickly replaces Alexis with a new boy, Wilmar, who looks a bit like him. Here the narrative begins to duplicate itself as a sort of ironic loop, at times recalling the confusions of Buñuel's That Obscure Object of Desire. As the love object functions in a particularly schizoid way—as Fernando's salvational fantasy, and as Colombia's exemplary symptom—Fernando makes Wilmar into Alexis, the way Jimmy Stewart replaces Madeline with Judy in Vertigo, ensuring, by the logic of obsession, that everything repeats itself in catastrophic fashion. The narrator is left, as it were, with cold ashes on his tongue, and a story to tell.

Fernando Vallejo writes prose fresh with audacities and throwaway erudition.
photo: Gaceta
Fernando Vallejo writes prose fresh with audacities and throwaway erudition.


Our Lady of the Assassins
By Fernando Vallejo, translated by Paul Hammond
Serpentís Tail, 135 pp., $13.99 paper
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Click here to read Jessica Winter's review of Our Lady of the Assassins, the movie.

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