Antonio Ortuño

Portrait Antonio Ortuño
© Ali Ghandtschi

Antonio Ortuño was born in 1976 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Initially he devoted himself to journalism, and worked several years for the Mexican newspaper »Milenio«. He also began writing articles for important cultural journals, including »Letras Libres« and »La Tempestad«.

He published his first novel, »El buscador de cabezas« (tr. The headhunter) in 2006. The plot revolves around the reformed Fascist Álex Faber, who begins a new life as a journalist at a leftist newspaper, and the difficulties he faces when the extreme Right comes to power and he has to decide whether to return opportunistically to his former convictions or to resist the temptations of power. The novel received numerous accolades, with the newspaper »Reforma« selecting it as the best debut of 2006. In his first work, Ortuño, who also writes short stories, already exhibited his characteristic tone, with the elements of sarcasm, black humor and explicit, often excessive descriptions of violence verging on the grotesque that mark his style. The breadth of his subject matter is impressive. His first novel is set in an indeterminate country and deals with government instability, repression and personal destinies in this conflict situation. Different altogether is »Recursos humanos« (2007, tr. Human resources), his second novel, which was nominated for the renowned Premio Herralde de Novela. In it the author casts a maliciously satirical eye on everyday office life. The frustrated office employee Gabriel Lynch launches a lonely campaign against his boss in which he also does not shy away from using terrorist methods. In »Méjico« (2015) the author addressed the flight of Republican militia personnel to Mexico during the Spanish civil war, as well as the escape in the other direction of a descendent of those Republicans for less honorable reasons. In doing so, the author, himself the son of Spanish immigrants, takes a close look at the question of Mexico’s national identity. »La fila india« (2013, tr. Indian file) is Ortuño’s first work to appear in German. The crime novel deals with the innumerable Central and South American immigrants who try to reach the United States via Mexico and often fall victim to violence in the process. A criminal investigator has to overcome many obstacles and prevailing corrupt structures in her efforts to solve the murder of numerous immigrants killed in an arson attack on their emergency shelter. The »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung« remarked: »The horror of Mexico seems far away, but it reminds us of the people who drown in the Mediterranean on their way to Europe […]. Perhaps Mexico is closer to home than we would like.«

The literary quarterly »Granta« listed Ortuño in 2010 as one of the most important young Spanish-language writers. His work has been translated into numerous languages.