Born in Actopan, Mexico, in 1970, Yuri Herrera studied Politics in Mexico, Creative Writing in El Paso and took his PhD in literature at Berkeley. His first novel to appear in English, Signs Preceding the End of the World, was published to great critical acclaim in 2015 and included in many Best-of-Year lists, including The Guardian‘s Best Fiction and NBC News’s Ten Great Latino Books, going on to win the 2016 Best Translated Book Award. He is currently teaching at the Tulane University, in New Orleans.
- Read more about Yuri Herrera’s ‘masterpiece’ Signs Preceding the End of the World, his ‘magnificent’ The Transmigration of Bodies, and his ‘excellent’ debut Kingdom Cons in the book section.
- Hear Herrera discussing his first ever book in English with Green Apple Books here and talking to Richard Lea on Guardian Podcast about borderlands and border crossing (from 15m 40s in).
- Yuri Herrera writes about the very real problem of corruption in the Government of Mexico for PEN Atlas
- You can also read The Skinny’s interview with Yuri Herrera here.
‘[T]his marvellously rich, slim novel is working on many levels . . . Herrera’s great achievement lies in elevating the harsh epic of “crossing” to the “other side” to soaring myth. There are allusions to Odysseus, Orpheus and the Styx, the river of Greek mythology that was a border to the Underworld; as well as Mesoamerican stories of shapeshifting and rebirth . . . Herrera’s metaphors grasp the freedom, and the alarming disorientation, of transition and translation . . . Translator Lisa Dillman has found a language both blunt and lyrical for Herrera’s many neologisms.’
New York Times
‘Short, suspenseful . . . outlandish and heartbreaking.’
Wall Street Journal
‘Mr. Herrera’s writing is poetic and defamiliarizing; translator Lisa Dillman has done well to capture his neologisms, which shift the setting into the surreal . . . In this legend-rich book, to immigrate is to enter forever the land of the shades.’
Times Literary Supplement
‘The narrative invites reflection on the migrant experience and cultural difference; it also supplies the excitement of an adventure with gangsters, guns and false leads . . . Yuri Herrera combines a dreamlike setting with vigorous style.’
Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name
‘Yuri Herrera is Mexico’s greatest novelist. His spare, poetic narratives and incomparable prose read like epics compacted into a single perfect punch – they ring your bell, your being, your soul. Signs Preceding the End of the World delivers a darkly mythological vision of the U.S. as experienced by the “not us” that is harrowing and fierce. The profoundly dignified, mind-boggling Makina, our guide and translator, is the heroine who redeems us all: she is the Truth.’
‘Yuri Herrera must be a thousand years old. He must have travelled to hell, and heaven, and back again. He must have once been a girl, an animal, a rock, a boy, and a woman. Nothing else explains the vastness of his understanding.’
‘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.’
The Wall Street Journal
‘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.’
Los Angeles Times
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
NPR Fresh Air
‘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.’
‘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.’
The Wall Street Journal
‘With the appearance of Kingdom Cons, all three of Yuri Herrera’s novellas, which meld evocations of contemporary Mexican life with different forms of mythologizing, are at last available in English . . . This cunning little drama about the line separating art from agitprop is, like the other books, translated with colloquial verve by Lisa Dillman. The Artist’s mission statement could speak for the whole of Mr. Herrera’s daring and memorable project: “Let them be scared, let the decent take offense. Put them to shame. Why else be an artist?”’
National Post (Canada)
‘Evocative of a very real – and very fraught – milieu . . . the novel burns through plot and features bursts of terse lyrical reverie.’
'Kingdom Cons displays . . . a gritty and highly stylized realism played out by dramatic, archetypal characters [and] exemplifies, in a host of ways, what leads people to delusional behavior.’
‘A powerful and memorable meditation on the social and economic value of art in a world ruled by the pursuit of power.’
The Big Issue
‘[Herrera’s] story world is brutal but makes room for art, both in the Artist’s personal growth and in Herrera’s sparse yet powerful prose. Simple turns of phrase can astonish as much as the plot does in its gravity. The clear hierarchy and the price of disobedience feel almost medieval and, as in Herrera’s previous novels, each shift in place marks a shift in the rules.’
‘Herrera is a jumbler of cultural forms, both literary and vernacular. Kingdom Cons is narrated with a bardic omniscience, a mythopoetic tone satisfyingly coarsened by slangy dialogue. The musicality of the prose turns the slim novel into its own kind of narcocorrido.’
‘Slim and seductive, infused with the border-land, narco-world suspense that has marked Herrera as one of Mexico’s finest novelists, [Kingdom Cons] promises to be a sizzling summer read.’
W. S. Lyon
The Los Angeles Review of Books
‘The novel soars where legend and fine detail merge into something original and true.’
Financial Times Summer Reads
‘Herrera employs a fable-like tone to depict a world shot through with violence . . . [Valeria] Luiselli and Herrera are two of the best writers working today: unsentimental, clear-eyed witnesses in troubling times.'