Reviews and media coverage of Crocodile Tears, by Mercedes Rosende, published by Bitter Lemon Press.
“The first of Uruguayan writer Mercedes Rosende’s novels to be published in English tells the unlikely tale of how a cowardly kidnapper, a psychotic jailbird, a sleazy lawyer, a superstitious cop and a bulimic killer get involved in a disastrous armed robbery.”
Interview with Mercedes Rosende.
“The guy is chewing something. He smiles, shows the gum between his teeth, walks around Diego, almost dancing, like a boxer circling his rival, bobbing and weaving; he rolls up his sleeves, reveals his black tattoos, letters that spell out names, skulls with glowing eyes, red bloodstains gushing across his skin.”
“Crocodile Tears occupies Elmore Leonard/Patrick Hoffman territory, with a cast of amoral characters observed intimately and ironically, and here with a certain amount – but not an overdose – of playful commentary.”
“The translation by Tim Gutteridge is a pleasure to read.”
“There’s an undercurrent of energy that suits the mayhem of the events that unfold. There’s also something of a voyeuristic quality to the way Rosende takes readers into these characters lives, while commenting on them here and there. We’re like Ursula, peering into the lives of others, fascinated. “
“Rosende, ably translated by Gutteridge, has some pizazz to her prose.”
“In its English-language debut, this bungled caper’s black comedy has earned comparisons to Elmore Leonard.”
“The plot is devilishly clever, meshing disparate characters, outrageous situations and improbable coincidences with an off kilter logic that is convincing. The dysfunctional underbelly of Uruguayan society, be it the corporate boardroom or the crowded prison cell, is exposed to ridicule by a series of sharply observed vignettes.”
“Tim Gutteridge conveys the sardonic wit of this screwball adventure in his English translation.”
“Well, translation is really writing for lazy people. Someone else does all the hard work – plot, character, style etc – and I just come along and copy it but in a different language.”
“A book that introduces us to an entire range of weird and wonderful characters who all jumble together to attempt a heist which goes anything but smoothly along with fantastically dark humour and comedy that makes it a cracking, unique read.”
“The translation of the book by Tim Gutteridge is great.”
“I loved the way [Rosende] played with the structure with the book, seamlessly merging the differing styles of narration with good hearty doses of authorial intrusion.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed this one, with its perceptive translation by Tim Gutteridge, and cannot wait for the next to be translated”
“Crocodile Tears is both comical and clever. Rosende expertly writes an intriguing story that never gives too much away, persistently leaving the reader on edge. “
“Thanks to Gutteridge’s brilliant translation, the anglophone reader is immersed deep into the heart of Montevideo, its petty yet hardened criminals, and its corrupt professionals.”
“The delivery of these characters’ portraits, containing difficult societal observations but presented with a good dose of dry wit and intelligence, shows great skill on part of translator Tim Gutteridge too.”
“with a sarcastic humor and a lot of surprises during the plot it was impossible to stop passing pages!”
“A dark tale about systemic corruption and criminality fuelled by poverty, Crocodile Tears is both entertaining and thought provoking.”
“The translation is rhythmic, poetic and bold in its language.”
“The translation worked well and I really enjoyed the writing style”
“Perhaps the challenge I enjoyed most came from the descriptive passages. I love that process of imagining a scene in order to recreate it.”
“If you’re a fan of crime fiction, and you’re open to a fresh new take on this brilliant genre, then you shouldn’t miss Crocodile Tears.”
“Wow! If anything was lost in the translation (Mercedes is Uruguayan) then Crocodile Tears certainly isn’t the poorer for it: the plot flows well, the prose and syntax are spot-on, and humour crosses the cultural divide seamlessly.”
“It reads like a marvellous mash-up of Anita Brookner and Quentin Tarantino.”
“Uruguay probably isn’t at the top of your list of places where clever crimes are hatched – with cleverer police detectives on the prowl – but Mercedes Rosende’s new book will clue you in.”
“Crocodile Tears has been newly translated into English by Tim Gutteridge, and his work is admirably seamless.”
“Welcome to the mean streets of Montevideo, Uruguay, and the tale of a bungled heist told with excoriating humour.”
“In particular, the scenes set in Uruguayan prisons are powerfully done. Not a lot of giggles here, but probably depressingly accurate.”
“Uruguayan author Rosende showcases her considerable talent in this offbeat crime novel, her English-language debut”
“This Uruguayan crime novel weaves multiple narratives into an at-once suspenseful and hilarious tapestry of crime gone awry”
“fast, slick and acerbically funny: buckle up and enjoy the ride.”
“With many an unexpected twist and laced with dark humor, ‘Crocodile Tears’ is an impressively original, exceptionally compelling, and deftly crafted story”
“Ably translated into English for an American readership by Tim Gutteridge”
“The language is gritty and urban, with a transatlantic use of words such as patsy and shiv yet there are also illumining descriptions that must have been a joy to translate, whether it’s the secret late night trips to the refrigerator or the priest’s confession”
“…adeptly translated by PEN Translates Award winning Scotsman, Tim Gutteridge”
“Containing more than a smirk of humour, this is a bold, vibrant crime caper set in Uruguay.”
“I found myself completely caught up in the words, the translation by Tim Gutteridge placed me within a country I don’t know, yet enabled me to feel a connection.”
“What makes this sing is the wonderful prose which demands that you leave no paragraph, or perhaps no sentence, unread. Many translated works are simply awkward in a new language. Here, the translation is so good you might think it was originally written in English.”
In A Wedding to Die For (La boda de tus muertos) by Andalusian playwright Pablo Canosales, the López family – the parents Jesús and Sofía, and their two children Mari Tere and Josete – attend the wedding reception of the oldest of the three children, Pablo.
Time stands still – as they drive towards the reception through the baking countryside, as they arrive, are seated humiliatingly at the back of the room, are treated to the bizarre ‘service’ of their dedicated waiter, Aurelio, it is always 7 o’clock.
The action moves from tragedy to farce to comedy, and back again. And one thing is clear. This family is held together not by love but by resentment and disappointment and loathing. Can they break free? What will happen if they do?
MARI TERE: Think. You’re the one who suggested the game. You must have something to say.
Pause. Abstraction. Silence. Wind. A strong wind engulfs SOFÍA. A mother who flies with the wind. The wind takes possession of her. She takes possession of the wind. A rising apocalypse.
SOFÍA: I like the bride. I mean, she doesn’t look so great but, well, she’s still the bride. And we always say the bride looks beautiful. Even if it’s a lie. Even if she’s stealing your son forever. And I like my Pablo; he’s so handsome. But then he’s handsome whatever he wears, and even more so dressed as the groom. And even though we’re a long way away, I like to see him smiling with joy like only he does. Although I keep losing sight of him, with all these people in the way. I also like the dress the bride’s mother is wearing. If it’s uglier than mine, I laugh. But if it’s prettier, I get really pissed off. I can’t help it.
The wedding ceremony. When people read at the altar. The priest with his goblet of wine. I like the bit when he says: “Speak now or forever hold your peace.” There’s always the possibility that somebody will ruin the moment. The organ. The photographer. People crying. People singing. The food. What is it with food at weddings? It never ends. The decorations. They’re so important. Everybody loves them. And I like asking people, “How are you? How are you? How are you?”
And explaining what it was like, organizing all of this, even though I haven’t organized anything. But I would like to have done it for my son. And I like the music at weddings. Music that allows you to let yourself go, even if it’s only on the inside. And the centrepieces. Real flowers. I don’t like the plastic ones, they look cheap, you can tell they’re plastic. And the tableware, which doesn’t seem so important and people don’t think about it, but it is important because you eat your food from it. It has to be white. And pretty. And simple.
I like simple weddings. And I like elaborate ones. I like weddings. I like all kinds of weddings! Because they’re all happy. Or they should be. And I like prawns. There have to be lots of prawns. Local, not imported. And a free bar. There has to be a free bar. For the young folks, above all, but for the older ones too. I like the guests. They make me feel good. The guests should be happy. More than a hundred but less than five hundred. With people smiling, even if they don’t want to or they can’t. I like that too. Because weddings are for smiling.
Envelopes with money. Envelopes without money. Envelopes with the name of the person who’s given it written on them. And envelopes with no name. Full of intrigue. And disappointment. And disaster. It doesn’t matter. If you can at least cover the costs. Agreeing among friends how much money to give to the happy couple. I like the way, the more money you give, the more love it seems to show.
Stag nights and hen parties. I like people losing control at stag nights and hen parties. The money from the wedding paying for the honeymoon. The smokers’ area. The cigars. I don’t like cigars but the smell of cigar smoke at a wedding makes me happy. Who knows why? Even though I don’t smoke. The condom machines in the bathrooms. The way the floor ends up all slippy and slidy.
Impossible high heels. Uncomfortable dresses. People changing their shoes halfway through. Perfume. Wedding make-up and wedding hair-dos. Flamboyant ties and ridiculous bow-ties. The crazy hairstyles at weddings. Layers and layers of make-up at weddings. People getting all dolled up to go to weddings. People getting drunk at weddings. People eating things at weddings that they’d never eat at home. People who say they go hungry at weddings.
People dancing without a care in the world at weddings. People dancing on their own at weddings. People complaining at weddings. People who do lines of coke at weddings. People who go crazy at weddings. People who fight and swear at weddings. The lovers of the bride and the groom at weddings.
People feeling each other up beneath the table at a wedding. Cheating on somebody at a wedding. The bride’s garter, I know it’s tacky, but I like it. The expensive bouquet that gets thrown in the air so that four tarts can fight over it without a scrap of dignity. The bloody kids running all over the place, knocking the waiters over and ruining everything.
The stupid stains on everyone’s wedding clothes. People who come to the wedding because they can’t get out of it. I like it when the wedding invitation doesn’t feel like an obligation. People who think they’re better than you at weddings. People you don’t know at weddings. Those people? Why the hell are they here, anywhere? The relatives who have to come to the wedding even though you don’t speak to them. I love the gossip at weddings. People with their mouths full who spit on you when they talk at weddings. People who shout at weddings. The sad single people at weddings. The divorcees at weddings. The virgins at weddings. The widows and widowers at weddings. The wife-beaters who pretend they’re nice at weddings. The ones who have filthy sex in the bathrooms at weddings. The karaoke at weddings. If only there was a karaoke with an infinite selection of songs so we could all drown in music.
Ah! There should be a photographer at every table at this wedding. I’d love that. I’d go mad! Mad! If there was a photographer at every single table and he could capture every moment of happiness at this wedding! Are you listening to me? Every single moment of happiness! Just the happy moments! Here! I wish there was a photographer here! Right here. Next to me. (She sighs) But I’d need a different family for that.
MARI TERE: Can we change the game?
JESÚS: Please! Let’s change the game and maybe that way your mother will stop talking shit.
Lapland is a play about truth and lies, knowledge and illusion, home and exile, identity and loss, innocence and maturity.
The action takes place on Christmas Eve. Monica and Ramón, and their son, Pablo, have travelled from Spain to spend the holidays with Monica´s sister, Nuria, her Finnish husband, Olavi, and their daughter, Ana. They want to give Pablo the best Christmas possible, in the land of Santa Claus.
There is only one problem: Ana has just informed Pablo that Father Christmas doesn’t exist.
As the evening develops, the characters struggle to find a way through the clash of cultures, their shared histories, the lies they have told each other – and the lies they have told themselves.
RAMÓN: Ana didn’t just tell him Father Christmas doesn’t exist; she also gave him evidence. The number of children in the world, the time it would take him to visit each house… She proved it was scientifically impossible for him to reach everyone. And she told him that the man who was going to bring the presents tonight wasn’t Father Christmas but her neighbour Toivo in disguise.
MONICA: Christ, what a brat!
RAMÓN: Basically, we’re screwed.
MONICA: We’ve got to find a way to save it!
OLAVI: But what is it that you want to save?
MONICA: My son’s childhood!
OLAVI: Do you really think it’s so important?
MONICA: JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! I HAD KIDS SO THAT I COULD CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS, FOR FUCK’S SAKE!
OLAVI: See how you shout when it’s not necessary?
MONICA: It certainly is bloody necessary, Olavi! Pablo is only five! There was no need for him to find out yet. I want him to carry on feeling that tingle of excitement I used to get on Christmas Day, a feeling I hadn’t had again until he was born! I want him to believe there’s a little bit of magic in this world of ours. Yes: magic. That just because you can’t see something, can’t touch it…
Winner of the City of Malaga Prize 2019, Roberto Osa’s latest play, Correspondencia, is a dark comedy set before and after a funeral in small-town Spain. As the wake progresses, a family’s secrets are gradually revealed.
Everyone rushes to view the deceased. SILENCE.
MARTA: They’ve done a good job with her.
EUGENIO: She looks a bit stern.
JUAN: She always looked a bit stern.
CARLOS: She doesn’t seem… She doesn’t look… She looks odd.
JUAN: She looks dead.
MARTA: I think she looks beautiful. A bit stern, maybe, but beautiful.
CARLOS: Her mouth is… I don’t know…
CARETAKER: We put a touch of glue on their lips to prevent the evacuation of fluids during the wake.
CARETAKER: Yes, madam. Glue.
JUAN: It must have been the strong stuff.
CARLOS: Uncle Juan, please, not now…
My translation of Jauría, Jordi Casanovas’ play about the Manada case (a gang rape at the Pamplona Bull Running Festival, and subsequent trial, and social and political fallout) opened the Chicago International Voices Project 2020 on 2 September 2020.
The original play, directed by Miguel del Arco and produced by Teatro Kamikaze in Madrid, won the Premio Contra la Violencia de Género 2019, and won the prizes for Best Theatre Adaptation and Best Theatre Show in the Premios Max 2020.
The script is a documentary fiction, composed entirely from fragments of the statements of the victim and the accused.
My translation of Paco Gámez’s Inquilino (Premio Calderón de la Barca 2018) was produced by Cervantes Theatre, London, as part of its 2020 season of New Spanish Playwriting. It was directed by Paula Paz, and starred Sebastián Capitán Viveros.
Tenant is the drama of a citizen who is forced to leave his apartment due to a disproportionate rent increase. It is an epic comedy of these times of crisis: the economy will be destiny; the villain, a landlord we don’t know; the hero, a young man raised in abundance who comes of age when the housing bubble explodes.
Do you remember, Ernesto asks his best and oldest friend, Oscar,
do you remember that time back in our university days when we broke into Felix
Goluda’s room and woke him up by slapping him across the face with our cocks,
do you remember the look on his face, the surprise, the shock, the fear, that
was a laugh, how we fucking laughed, they agree, it was a laugh, a fucking
Now imagine someone shows up at your dad’s funeral, the body still stiff in the casket if you’ll excuse the pun and this guy, this visitor, a mourner if you like, he whips out his cock, his schlong, and he slaps your old man, your dear dead dad, across the face with his wedding tackle, not so fucking funny, is it? and Anna, Oscar’s wife and Ernesto’s friend, agrees that it’s not funny, not funny at all.
Fuck’s sake, Oscar says, some people have no sense of humour, they’re always looking for reasons to take offence, ruling things off limits or declaring them to be in poor taste, a Bad Joke even, like a misplaced cock at a funeral obviously but they don’t stop there, the list of things you can’t make jokes about is endless: terrorism, feminism, child abuse, and honestly if you can’t joke about those then what can you make a joke about, what is humour even for, next thing you’ll be telling me I can’t make a joke about murder either…
You can see Bad Joke (Mala broma) by Jordi Casanovas, translated by Tim Gutteridge and directed by Dadiow Lin at the Omnibus Theatre, 2 August 2019. Click here for information and booking. Cast: Edwin Nwachukwu Jr., Dilek Rose and David Ahmad.
Out of the Wings Festival 2019
Bad Joke is part of the Out of the Wings Festival 2019, a celebration of theatre from the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world, held at the Omnibus Theatre, London. This year’s festival includes six dramatised readings of new English translations, a one-day conference, and three workshops.
Out of the Wings is supported by King’s College London with Goldsmiths University of London and Language Acts and Worldmaking.
“A woman can’t enter the mine,” Pedro Villca tells me. “Can you imagine? The woman has her period and Pachamama gets jealous. Then Pachamama hides the ore and the seam disappears.”
Villca is an old miner, an unlikely combination in Bolivia. He’s 59 and none of his comrades have made it to his age. He’s alive, he says, because he was never greedy. Most miners work for months or even years without a break. Most miners end up working 24-hour shifts, fuelled by coca leaves and liquor, a practice for which they have invented a verb, veinticuatrear: ‘to twenty-four’. Instead he would come up to the surface, go back to his parents’ village for a few months to grow potatoes and herd llamas, fill his lungs with clean air to flush the dust out of them, and then go back to the mine. But he was never there when his companions were asphyxiated by a pocket of gas or crushed by a rockfall. He knows he’s already taken too many chances with death and that he shouldn’t push his luck. So he’s decided to retire. He swears that in a few weeks’ time he’ll retire.
Alicia opens her fist and shows me three stones the colour of lead, speckled with sparkling spots: particles of silver. She has pilfered them from the mine.
She wraps the stones in newspaper, puts the package in her backpack and disappears behind the canvas sacks to change her clothes. She takes off the overalls and puts on some jeans, a blue tracksuit top and a knitted hat. She grabs the backpack, and we leave the hut and walk downhill.
She’s 14 years old, and her hands are dry and tough, bleached by the dust of the mountain.
The wind sweeps the slopes: fragments of rock scatter before it, the rubble groans. The dust of Cerro Rico gets in your eyes, between your teeth, into your lungs. It contains arsenic, which causes cancer, and it contains cadmium, zinc, chrome and lead, all of which accumulate in the blood, gradually poisoning the body until it is exhausted. The dust also contains silver: between 120 and 150 grams of silver for every ton of dust. Every visitor takes away a few particles of Potosí silver in their lungs. It’s because of these particles, the need to separate them from all the others, that Alicia lives in an adobe hut on the mountain.
In Potosí, Ander Izagirre tells the story of Alicia, a 14-year-old girl who lives on the slopes of Cerro Rico de Potosí, the mineral-rich mountain in Bolivia whose silver and other metals were a key source of wealth for the Spanish Empire from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Alicia shares an adobe-brick hut with her mother and younger sister on a windswept esplanade at the entrance to the mine which dominates their lives. The mining cooperative provides Alicia’s family with their makeshift home in exchange for her mother’s work guarding the equipment that is stored in a nearby hut; although Alicia is officially too young to be employed, she supplements the family income by working shifts in the mine, pushing a trolley full of rocks through underground tunnels for 2 euros a night. The toxic dust of the mine floats in the air they breathe and seeps into the water supply.
At the foot of the mountain, the city of Potosí, for so long a source of fabulous wealth, remains a place of immense poverty. Atlhough the rich seams of the past have all been exhausted, there are still over 10,000 people working in the mines (many of them children like Alicia) in small-scale, informal operations. They remove the rock by hand and transport it to the surface, where US and Japanese-owned multinationals grind it down and process it to extract the remaining ore. The resultant damage – both to the environment and to those who live and work in or near the mines – is devastating.
Izagirre skilfully uses this intimate portrait of a single family and the place where they live to tell a larger story: how the ‘blessing’ of mineral wealth has cursed Bolivia throughout its history, attracting the Spanish conquistadores who created a system of slave labour to extract the metal, and giving birth in the 19th century to a brutal local oligarchy that ruled over one of the poorest and most unequal countries on the planet. The country’s modern history has been marked by a series of military dictatorships, often installed with US backing with the express purpose of guaranteeing the flow of raw materials, and the economy remains extremely vulnerable to any fluctuation in the prices of tin and other minerals.
At the same time, this is a narrative that is not afraid of confronting uncomfortable truths, and Izagirre shows how the terrible working conditions and appalling safety record of the mines have not only caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of miners through the centuries, but have spawned a patriarchal social system in which the miners, brutalised and traumatised by their experiences and numbed by alcohol, pass this on to their wives and children in the form of violence and physical and sexual abuse. This system has its symbolic focus in the figure of El Tío, a diabolic subterranean male counterpart to Pachamama, the Andean earth goddess, and goes hand in hand with active attempts to exclude women from the public and political spheres.
Although the story of Alicia and her family are at the centre of Izagirre’s account, he interweaves it with accounts of the lives of several other people: Pedro Villca, at 59 an ‘improbably old’ miner who is the author’s guide in the mines; Father Gregorio, an Oblate priest from northern Spain who was sent to Bolivia in the 1960s to run a Catholic radio station, and was hounded by the authorities for siding with the poor; Che Guevara, who died in a doomed attempt to light the fuse of a peasants’ and workers’ revolution in Bolivia; and Klaus Barbie, the Nazi fugitive who took refuge in Bolivia and put his skills to use by organising death squads on behalf of the CIA-backed dictator, General Barrientos.
The result is a uniquely engaging mixture of memoir, reportage, travel writing and history that is reminiscent of Ryszard Kapuściński at his peak.
Originally published by Libros del K.O. Details of UK publisher, dates and title coming shortly…
What stories did you mean?
Earlier. When I recognized Danny in the photo, you said I would have heard the stories; that everyone knew about it.
Yes, I’m afraid so. In fact, I’m surprised you don’t.
About Danny’s accident?
It wasn’t an accident. I don’t know why I said that – actually, I do know. It was so comforting that you didn’t know anything, that you didn’t look at me in that way everyone does–
If you don’t want to talk about it–
At church they say talking about it is good for us. And I guess you have the right to know. You were friends, after all.
Danny was killed in the shooting.
The English translation of The Swallow (La Golondrina) by Catalan playwright Guillem Clua, was commissioned by London’s Cervantes Theatre for its world premiere in both English and Spanish in September 2017, and returned to open the Second Season of New Spanish Playwrighting from 30 April to 26 May 2018.
Did you hide the letters so your wife and your daughter wouldn’t find out?
Did you hide them?
Yes. Fuck. What else do you want? Do you want me to confess? I applied for the fucking loan to open the bar. They rolled out the red carpet, and it had always been my dream. I didn’t want to end up like my old man.
Ten years ago, the streets were full of people. Everyone went out in the evening. Seven nights a week. Now, I don’t even have enough money to buy new songs. Do you want to know how I feel every night when I go into the bar to be greeted by Riley singing ‘The Lady in fucking Red’ again?
Do you want to know how I feel at the end of the night, after I’ve spent ten hours on my feet and the takings don’t even cover the electricity bill? So yes, then I go over to the fucking one-armed bandit and feed it every coin I’ve fucking got.
Or do you want me to tell you how scared I am? How scared I am of losing my house and my family? How scared I am that they’ll turn their backs on me when they find out? Is that what you want? Is that what you fucking want?
IDIOTA by leading Catalan playwright, Jordi Casanovas, is a dark comedy that explores the limits of morality and power. It has been staged in Barcelona, Madrid, Mexico City, Rome, Buenos Aires and Costa Rica, with productions scheduled for the Basque Country, Venezuela and Chile in 2018.