Guadalupe Nettel

Guadalupe Nettel was born in Mexico City in 1973. She grew up in her native country and in France, where she became fluent in French. After graduating in Hispanic Language and Literature at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma in Mexico City, she lived in Paris for five years and received a DEA in Linguistics from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes. At the young age of nineteen she won the prize for the best French-language story from beyond the francophone world, awarded by Radio France Internationale. Since then she has published numerous short stories, which have appeared in collections and in anthologies such as »Dispersión multitudinaria« (1997; t: Mass dispersion), and a novel. She writes for various newspapers, among them »Lateral« and »Letras Libres«, as well as for the supplements in »Culturas« and »Le Monde des livres«.

Her first short story collection, »Juegos de artificio« (2003; t: Fireworks), was followed by the French-published volume »Les jours fossils« (t: Fossil days) in 2006. That same year her first novel, »El huésped« (t: The guest), came out. It tells the story of Ana who since childhood has been accompanied, in her imagination, by an unknown being she calls »the Thing« that radically governs her existence. Following the death of the brother whom she adored and her father abandoning the family she lives with her mother in autistic seclusion until she begins working as a reader at an institution for the blind. She gets to know several handicapped and marginalized beings, who introduce her to the mysterious and surreal underworlds of Mexico City. Ana gradually learns to deal with her fears and her surroundings, to free herself from the strange being that has followed her for so long, and to find her own identity.

The novel, which appeared in French and Spanish at the same time, is narrated by an omniscient first person-narrator using various temporal planes. By borrowing from the literature of the fantastic – in which Nettel finds »a series of illuminations when it comes to defining the individuality and subjectivity of the people at hand« – a play between the inner world and external environment of the protagonist, between the surface and subterranean of Mexico City, between the manifest and the hidden, is created. In this way a system of metaphor develops that reveals how confrontation with the uncanny side of the self can lead to the formation of a liberated self. The author comments: »The key to our existence is located in that which frightens us, that which puts us to shame: the possibility of unravelling ourselves. This is because that which frightens us also distinguishes us from everyone else.«

»El huésped« was on the shortlist of the Spanish Premio Herralde. Nettel’s new book, »Pétalos« (t: Petals), was awarded the Mexican Premio Gilberto Owen. The collection of short stories will appear in late 2007. The author is currently at work on her second novel and lives in Barcelona, where she works as a translator.

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