David Toscana

Mexico

© Jaime Rivero

David Toscana, considered one of the most important new voices in Mexican literature, was born in 1961 and lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico and Warsaw, Poland. His books of short stories and his novels have been translated into several languages. He was awarded an impressive number of prestigious literary prizes. In 2003 Toscana was guest of the Writers in Residence Programme in Berlin (DAAD) for one year.

 

 

Toscana’s second novel, Estación Tula, is based on a real event: after a fierce hurricane, Froylán Gómez’ car is found in a river; the man himself is considered to have perished. Years later, his wife comes across a pile of papers and on reading them discovers that Froylán has availed himself of the opportunity to disappear with his mistress. So she asks her friend David Toscana to go through the papers to see if he can make anything worthwhile out of them. The result is Estación Tula, a novel about a triangular relationship, about longing and passion; the story of the eager orphan Juan Capistrán in search of adventure and heroism; and not least a homage to the little town of Tula that has a railway station which no train has ever stopped at.

 

 

As in Estación Tula, “a hipnotic novel” (New York Times) with its search for adventure and heroism, the life of the eight circus performers in Santa María del Circo (“Our Lady of the Circus”) is even more allegorical. Don Alejo and the members of his circus stumble upon a deserted town. Intrigued by the notion of living a normal life, they decide to establish a community.

 

The press about Santa María del Circo:

 

Toscana’s achievement is his ability to make the reader fall madly in love with the characters.

Book Magazine

 

A one-man-show. Toscana is set to rise in the ranks of the most important Latin American writer.

Kirkus

 

He combines some of the greatest features of ‘A Hundred Years of Solitude’. A comparison that is anything but derogatory! Toscana tells the complete history of a world and its demise. In a witty yet poetic language.

The ABC Cultural

 

In Duelo por Miguel Pruneda (“Mourning for Miguel Pruneda”) Miguel has simply had enough. Enough of his office job of 30 years, enough of his wife, enough of life, basically. Despite his death notice having appeared in the local newspaper, he roams around the cemetery quite lively and falls in love with a girl whose bones he finds.

El último lector (“The last Reader“) again revolves around the death of a girl: In Icamole, an abandoned town in the desert-like North of Mexico, bachelor Remigio finds her in his well and falls strangely in love with her. He only tells his father Lucio about it. While the police investigate the death of the little girl, Lucio, a librarian and the last reader of Icamole, searches for explanations in literature. He reads the books he likes while feeding the others to the cockroaches. This novel proves David Toscana to be one of our best narrators. (Milenio) In “El último lector” Toscana demonstrates what true literature is. (Vértigo).

The author has been awarded three literary awards for this novel: The National Colima Prize, the José Fuentes Mares and the Antonin Artaud Prize. El último lector was also shortlisted for Latin America’s most important literary award, the Rómulo Gallegos.

 

In “El último lector” Toscana demonstrates what true literature is.

Vértigo

 

One closes the book with a sensation of exquisite giddiness that one encounters very rarely.

Espaces Latinos

 

Toscana proves that he has listened closely to the lessons of the two great Latin American masters of illusion, Borges and Onetti.

Lire

 

 

Toscana is a master at interweaving the tragic and the tender, black humour and delicate irony, love and hurt. The world of his protagonists is set in the imagination and takes a bizarre form when coming into contact with reality. And reality is miserable in the stories told in Lontananza. One sits there with the men who meet in the bar Lontananza in the evening, fleeing from the monotony at home, and listens to their stories which have a novel-like quality. A great little book.  

 

 

El ejército iluminado (“The Illuminated Army”) sees the suspended teacher Matus running a marathon in his little town in the deepest province of north Mexico. A man in the wrong place at the wrong time who never had the chance to compete for a medal, he now uses all his energy to retrieve it for himself from the widow of a North American Olympic champion of 1924.

Neither was the patriotic Matus granted to restore justice and reclaim the territory north of the Río Bravo, nowadays Texas, for the Mexican realm. Only his mentally handicapped pupils may follow him when he hangs up an outdated map or sets off towards the North with an old boneshaker where he intends to fight the decisive battle.  Together with the plump Comodoro and his friends he manages to cross the torrent and even occupy one of the enemy’s command centres, at least for a few hours. Then however, it comes to losses, they have to surrender and a hardly heroic return home follows, which in reality is only a few miles down the road.

 

David Toscana deserves to be labelled as the Latin-American Cervantes of the 21st century! The Illuminated Army is like a little Quijote.

Rodrigo Argüello, El Tiempo

 

In his novel, Los puentes de Königsberg ("The Bridges of Königsberg"), David Toscana interweaves several stories into a lyrical and romantic hymn to the transitory nature of beauty and the cruelty of war. The author contrasts scenes in his home of Monterrey with the tragic fall of Königsberg, both cities' names meaning "mountain of the king", at the end of World War II. Yet this is not a juxtaposition in the classic sense; the two levels flow together in an inimitable way, the two towns superimposed upon one another like a double projection.

We start with Floro and Blasco, two unemployed drinkers playing war games in a construction ditch. At the same time, there are Mexicans actually fighting for the Allies on the front. But these two men, are no longer needed. With a gun in your hand, Floro comments, it is easy to feel like a man: 'The difficult thing in our times is going through life unarmed.' So there is no other option for them but to lose themselves in daydreams. They start tracing the case of six schoolgirls kidnapped several years ago, who are now considered dead. Their almost erotic enthusiasm for the missing girls grows and grows. They even fantasise themselves into the role of the kidnappers.

While the parents don't give up looking for their daughters, one of the kidnapped girls' brother is secretly in love with his teacher Señorita Andrea. She had set her class an unsolvable problem going back to the mathematician Euler: to cross the seven bridges of Königsberg in such a way that each one was crossed once and only once. When the boy claims he has found a solution Andrea is indignant, but from then on she regularly meets up with him on the only bridge in Monterrey, representing a different bridge of Königsberg every time. Through stories from the city's past, the teacher draws the boy deeper and deeper into her world.

Despite all its irony, the novel, inspired by Gustav Mahler's Songs on the Death of Children, strives for romantic glorification, and attacks men's war games, from which always women suffer, becoming a wistful song of remembering. Toscana passes Euler's problem on to his readers, inviting us to cross the bridges of Königsberg over and over again. There is no one way, no single clear solution. Only the attempt.

 

From his first books, David Toscana has been betting on imagination as topic, as style and as narrative strategy.

Revista de la Universidad de México

 

Los puentes de Königsberg, a neat, frenzied and exquisite fantasy where history, theatre, epic, myth and periodism come together.

Nexus

 

 

The new novel La ciudad que el diablo se llevó (“The City That Was Carried Away by the Devil”) tells the story of four friends who try to get by in 1945 Warsaw, selling looted goods or burying corpses in the cemetery. Then one of them is arrested… As they are drawn into a maelstrom of bizarre coincidences, they finally manage to leave the abominable city behind. Writing with a good dose of irony, Toscana once again makes the reader believe that the weirdest things are perfectly normal.

 

 

 

Rights:

 

Novels:

Estación Tula, Mexico City: Joaquín Mortiz 1995, 272 p.

Film rights under option

France: Zulma 2010 Germany: Wolfgang Krüger 1998 Greece: Opera 1999 Serbia&Montenegro: Narodna Knjiga 2005 Syria: At-Taquee 2003 US: St. Martin's Press 1999 (avail.)

 

Santa María del Circo, Mexico City: Random House 1998, 288 p.,

included by Publishers Weekly in its annual review “The Year in Books 2001”

Film rights under option

Brazil: Casa da palavra 2006 Portugal: Oficina do Livro 2010 US: St. Martin's Press 2001

 

Duelo por Miguel Pruneda, Mexico City: Random House 2002, 219p.

Sweden: Boca/ Pocky 2006

 

El último lector, Mexico City: Random House 2004, 192 p.

English translation available

Shortlisted for the Rómulo Gallegos Prize

Brazil: Casa da palavra 2005 France: Zulma 2009, pb 2013 India: DC Books 2013Italy: Ed. Riuniti 2007 Poland: Bertelsmann 2010 Portugal: Oficina do Livro 2008Slovak Republic: Belimex 2005 Sweden: Boca/Atlas 2009 Turkey: Kirmizi Kedi 2011US: Texas Tech University Press 2009

 

El ejército iluminado, Mexico City: Tusquets 2006, 233 p.

Film rights under option

Brazil: Casa da Palavra 2007 Croatia: Bozicevic France: Zulma 2012 Portugal: Parsifal

 

Los puentes de Königsberg, Mexico City: Alfaguara 2009, 242 p.

Brazil: Casa da Palavra 2012

 

La ciudad que el diablo se llevó, Mexico City, Alfaguara 2012, 266 p.

 

 

Stories:

Lontananza, Buenos Aires: Random House 2003, 115 p.

English sample translation available

 

 

Participation in anthologies:

La Frontera – Die mexikanisch-US-amerikanische Grenze und ihre Künstler

Frankfurt am Main: Faust Kultur

 

Antologia Pan-americana, Rio de Janeiro, Record 2010, 373 p.