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Culture

Mexico City is a metastasis, says author Guillermo Fadanelli

Mexico City is the second largest metropolis in the world. In his work, renowned Mexican author Guillermo Fadanelli portrays the dark side of his home - marked by drugs, prostitution and corruption.

A padlock on a gate to an abandoned building

Decay and poverty are apparent across Mexico City

Guillermo Fadanelli, a tall man well over six feet, says he feels naked without his baseball cap on. Baseball is a favorite pastime in the city where he is at home - the largest city in all of Latin America.

"You can't reflect on a city like Mexico City or turn it into fiction," said Fadanelli. The city weighs on him; it plays a central role in his books - the city with 108,000 taxis and 28,000 busses, and where the telephone books have 5,000 pages. In Mexico City, there's no city planning worth speaking of, and city limits have long ceased to exist.

It's practically a euphemism to call this mass of concrete and people a city, says Fadanelli. Rather than being a place that caters to the residents, it's much more of an "urban territory, an ensemble of colonies, districts, suburbs - some hospitable, some hostile," he adds.

For Fadanelli, Mexico City is a "metastasis" that grows at random. "Here, there are people in power who want to make us think that they run this city," he says, "but it's a city that can't be governed."

Impovrished living conditions in Mexico City

Nearly nine million people live in Mexico City - many of them in poverty

Revolution in Mexican storytelling

In his novels, Guillermo Fadanelli conveys the pain of living here - and of being trapped here. Still, he's not judgemental. He simply shows reality: the good and the bad, without any moral conclusions.

For Silvia Ruiz, director of the literature department at the Universidad Iberoamericana, one of the most renowned universities in Latin America, Fadanelli's work - particularly his informal style and absence of moral judgement - represents a revolution in the Mexican art of storytelling.

"He can bring stories to an end wonderfully," said Ruiz, "He's a writer who's already secured a place in Mexico's literary history."

Fadanelli knows his city so well because he is constantly walking through it. "The romantic in me likes to walk from North to South in the early morning," he said. "I used to take the subway, I used to use all kinds of public transportation, but now I walk."

It takes him more than one and a half hours to walk from his house to the center of town.

Panorama view of Mexico City

The sprawling city never seems to end

The dark side of the city

According to the author, corruption has practically become a national sport in Mexico. Laws often go unheeded - and ensuring that they don't is a daily struggle, whether it's haggling with the taxi driver who demands too much money or with the police officer who is actually supposed to be upholding the laws.

Corruption and Mexico's crumbling justice system are touched on in Fadanelli's books. He has experienced the problem first-hand.

The author was framed and arrested just as he was about to introduce his novel "Rock Hudson's Other Face" at the book fair in Guadalajara.

"They put a gram of cocaine in my pocket, accused me and brought me straight to a jail cell and didn't let me call anyone," said Fadanelli. He spent two days in jail, without being able to place a single call. After he was finally released, he returned to the book fair and presented his novel.

However, no one believed what had happened to him, he said. Everyone thought he was just telling stories to make himself more interesting or to seem tough.

Guillermo Fadanelli

Guillermo Fadanelli was born in Mexico City in 1963

"I was really lucky, because it's a really dangerous city," said Fadanelli. "Its dark side is really dark. Its bright side is beyond compare, but its dark side is horrible - practically hellish."

A love-hate relationship

For everyone's health, it would be better if Mexico City didn't exist, Fadanelli once wrote. He would rather not grow old here and would prefer Buenos Aires or Havanna, or even Madrid, where he has many friends, or Berlin, where he lived for a year.

Still, after his time in Berlin, he was drawn back to Mexico City, "as if pulled by a magnet."

Some of Guillermo Fadanelli's major works in English translation include "See You at Breakfast?" (2009), "Rock Hudson's Other Face" (2006), and "Compare UN Rifle" (2004).

Author: Claudia Herrera-Pahl (kjb)

Editor: Greg Wiser

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