“These days we walk right past a body on the street, and we have to stop pretending we can’t see it.”
– from The Transmigration of Bodies
A plague has brought death to the city. Two feuding crime families with blood on their hands need our hard-boiled hero, The Redeemer, to broker peace. Both his instincts and the vacant streets warn him to stay indoors, but The Redeemer ventures out into the city’s underbelly to arrange for the exchange of the bodies they hold hostage.
Yuri Herrera’s novel is a response to the violence of contemporary Mexico. With echoes of Romeo and Juliet, Roberto Bolaño and Raymond Chandler, The Transmigration of Bodies is a noirish tragedy and a tribute to those bodies – loved, sanctified, lusted after, and defiled – that violent crime has touched.
Praise for The Transmigration of Bodies
- ‘Bracingly unbookish . . . The after-effect is more like that of a video game or Marvel comic, with both the brightness and unabashed flatness those entail. Darkly satisfying . . . Swift, slick images and one-liners glitter at regular intervals.’ James Lasdun, The Guardian
- ‘Herrera packs his slim book with the sex, booze and nihilism of a better Simenon novella . . . Dillman brings out a gritty, pulpy flavor in the writing.’ Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
- ‘Herrera pivots from border fabulist to noirish raconteur, bringing his considerable allegorical powers to bear on a facet of contemporary Mexican culture: Namely, its legacy of violence. Herrera’s prose, deftly translated by Lisa Dillman, is lean and hard-boiled — and often caustically poetic — though underpinned by a sort of wry self-awareness. For all the apocalyptic strangeness of his settings — permeable borders, plague addled cities — his stories mold something rich and fundamental from the stuff of prosaic life.’ Dustin Illingworth, Los Angeles Times
- ‘The author of playful, prophetic, unnerving books that deserve to be read several times, with dialogue so telling it eats into your brain rather like the worm in the Redeemer’s preferred mescal, Herrera is a writer for our doomed epoch.’ Eileen Battersby, Irish Times
- ‘Herrera’s brilliantly surreal turns of phrase mirror the strangeness of the world: he knows that brutal everyday truths are best revealed through dreams. Blood-soaked, driven deep and expertly written.’ Jeff Noon, The Spectator
- ‘Yuri Herrera [is] my favorite of the new Mexican writers. The Transmigration of Bodies goes straight for the soul. Unsettling and deep, Herrera transmigrates us to a Mexico that feels like a metaphysical condition, a timeless kingdom in which the living are forever dancing with the dead.’ John Powers, NPR Fresh Air
- ‘The Transmigration of Bodies takes the conventions of gumshoe fiction and transfers them to a charnel-house world that makes nonsense of the genre’s habitual moral opposites . . . There’s plenty to admire about this allegorical vision of a country under lockdown, where violence and death have ceased to be the motors for fiction, instead becoming the backdrop of everyday life.’ Bookforum
- ‘Yuri Herrera’s tiny, beautiful novels each conjure myth and metaphor from a contemporary experience in a precise location, transformed by archaic-colloquial prose.’ Lorna Scott-Fox, Times Literary Supplement
- ‘Excellent neo-noir . . . One of North America’s best fiction cycles continues. Like a True Detective that doesn’t suck, Transmigration is a hard-boiled fiction that wades in literary and philosophical allusion.’ Flavorwire
- ‘[In The Transmigration of Bodies] Herrera turns to Mexico’s internal violence in this tragic, brilliant “film gris” of contemporary fiction.’ Flavorwire 10 Must-Reads for July
- ‘I absolutely adore noir, and this . . . is a fantastic entry in the genre . . . It’s slightly queer (in multiple senses of the world), insistently intense, and it lingers long after you wrap up this novella.’ xojane.com
- ‘A lose-your-whole-afternoon read.’ Tracy Mumford, Minnesota Public Radio
- ‘The Transmigration of Bodies represents a highpoint in the genre of the novel. Herrera has been slowly building an oeuvre constructed on a singular conception of the world, in which literature’s past and present form a continuum. Reading him gives one the sense of diving into his library, a place that is unashamed of belonging to a tradition and being well-read and much-underlined.’ Álvaro Enrigue, author of Sudden Death.
- ‘The Transmigration of Bodies is a magnificent book, and its author one of the few indispensable Latin American writers of our times.’ Patricio Pron, author of My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain
- ‘In Herrera’s slim, amusing book, [he] strips Romeo & Juliet to its essence and sets it against a plague that symbolises Mexico’s recent violent history.’ Publishers Weekly
- ‘Herrera’s a very stylistic writer; he does very interesting things with language, and it comes through in the translation, which is no small feat.’ Rhode Island Public Radio Summer Picks
- ‘A wondrous mash-up of styles which works solely and splendidly due to Herrera’s sureness of touch.’ New Internationalist, five star review
- ‘Herrera’s literary power is once again in his restraint . . . [as he] brings a frenetic energy and fresh idiomatic feel to the internal wars of the faraway nouveau riche.’ The List, four star review
- ‘As with many great and weighty storytellers, it’s hard to avoid oxymorons while describing Herrera’s achievements. His stories have the impact and ambition of epics but clock in at around 100 pages. The Transmigration of Bodies has gravity and insight, as well as historical and literary allusions, which override the zeitgeist and suggest something mythical.’ Big Issue
- ‘I’d recommend this book for the nicknames alone . . . Every character gets one – because why the hell not? What Herrera calls his characters is just one of the many details that had me falling hard for this book . . . truly original.’ BookRiot
- ‘[The Transmigration of Bodies] turns out not to be a genre novel, so much as a novel about genre. Herrera is a new literary sheriff in town, able to allegorize Shakespeare, confer gasp-worthy erotic pulp within the crumbling hideaways of a apocalyptic city, and largely save mankind from itself, while simultaneously tipping his hat to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett—all within 101 pages.’ Asymptote
- ‘A story of hope amidst the hopeless, and a parable for our violent, perpetually threatened times, The Transmigration of Bodies is indispensable.’ Review 31 Best Novels of 2016
- ‘Herrera gives us all the trademarks of a great noir without turning them into caricature.’ Minor Literatures
- ‘Yuri Herrera is rapidly making a name for himself as one of the most exciting authors publishing in America today. It’s impressive that Herrera can build such powerful worlds in such few words and pages . . . an excellent novella.’ Pop Matters
- ‘The Redeemer is a flawed but appealing character, it would be good to meet him again.’ Oxford Times
- ‘Herrera’s characteristic concision goes a step further here, his skill for expression more impressive in its restraint than its excess. This is a harsh novel, as are those from a borderland besieged by extreme violence, but it’s also oddly comforting, in large part due to its exceptional literary quality.’ El País
Booksellers love The Transmigration of Bodies
- ‘Yuri Herrera’s novels are like little lights in a vast darkness. I want to see whatever he shows me.’ Stephen Sparks, Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA, USA.
- ‘This is as noir should be, written with all the grit and grime of hard-boiled crime and all the literary merit we’re beginning to expect from Herrera. Before the end he’ll have you asking how, in the shadow of anonymity, do you differentiate between the guilty and the innocent?’ Tom Harris, Mr B’s Emporium, Bath, UK.
- ‘Both hysterical and bleak, The Transmigration of Bodies builds an entire world in 100 pages. Herrera’s ability to express everything in so few words, his skill of merging the argot of the streets with the poetry of life is unrivalled. The world his characters inhabit is dangerous and urban, like a postcard sent from the ends of the earth. Reading his compact novels is both exhilarating and unforgettable.’ Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX, USA.
- ‘A fabulous book full of low-life characters struggling to get by. It’s an everyday story of love, lust, disease and death. Indispensable.’ Matthew Geden, Waterstones Cork, Ireland.
- ‘Reading The Transmigration of Bodies was akin to being enveloped in a dream state, yet one that upon waking somehow makes profound sense. Another truly magnificent novel from one of the most exciting authors to emerge on the world stage for aeons.’ Ray Mattinson, Blackwell Oxford, UK.
- ‘A microcosmic look at the lives of two families straight out of a Shakespearean drama. Pick it up and you won’t put it down till you’ve finished.’ Grace Waltemyer, Posman Books in Chelsea Market, NY, USA.
- ‘The Transmigration of Bodies is a taut, exciting novel of redemption. One of the best noir-crime books I’ve read of late.’ Amber Sherlock, Waterstones Farnham, UK.
- ‘A work replete with the gritty, informal prose first displayed in Signs — rooted firmly in the modern world yet evoking the feel of an epic divorced from time . . . a cross between Cormac McCarthy and a detective novel, an incisive portrait evoking a Mexican Inherent Vice.’ Marina Clementi, Seminary Co-op Bookstore, Chicago, IL, USA.
- ‘Herrera and @andothertweets have done it again. A hit from the first line!’ Gary Perry, Foyles Charing Cross Road, London, UK.
- ‘The Transmigration of Bodies reads like a fever dream: an intense, enthralling examination of how people live in a city of the dying and the dead. It takes an extraordinary amount of skill to combine elements of noir, political commentary, hardboiled crime, and allegory (not to mention Shakespeare, with a seasoning of existential ennui) and keep the novel moving, or in this case, racing along. Herrera, clearly, has at least that much talent, and then some.’ Thomas Flynn, Volumes Bookcafe, Chicago, IL, USA.
- ‘Fantastic stuff. I could read a whole series with The Redeemer.’ Cliff Shephard, Totnes Bookshop, UK.
- Read more about Yuri Herrera on our author page.
- Granta magazine’s Love issue features an excerpt from The Transmigration of Bodies. Read it here.
- Read about Yuri Herrera’s Best Translated Book Award-winning Signs Preceding the End of the World, also published by And Other Stories.
- You can hear Yuri Herrera talking to Richard Lea on Guardian Podcast about borderlands and border crossing (from 15m 40s in).
- Read The Skinny‘s interview with Yuri Herrera here.
- Hear Herrera discussing his first ever book in English with Green Apple Books here.
- If you had subscribed to And Other Stories before 9th November 2015, you would have received the first edition of the book – in which all subscribers are thanked by name – before its official publication, as well us up to five other And Other Stories titles per year. Find out about subscribing to upcoming titles here.