Look up truffle pig on the interweb, and you will not yet immediately the novel, Tears of the Trufflepig, by Fernando A. Flores. Let's change that. When possible, I read more than one book at once, rotating between paper and audio. But some books intervene in the rotation, refracting an immediate necessity of engagement, a revival to read through with anticipation and a stealth coveting. Tears of the Trufflepig, with agreement from all other patient stories cuing, moved to the forefront immediately upon discovery.
Before the plot, what is a trufflepig, if not a hog that sniffs out yummy tree fungus, once a staple of survival in the commons?
According to the narrator explaining the first encounter between two of the main human characters and a trufflepig: "Between them wiggled a hooved animal that perplexed Bellacosa and Paco herbert. In the dim lighting it looked like a pig with tiny ears, but it acted very doglike, with its front legs erect. A slurping, salivating tongue hung out of its mouth, which was actually a beak, like a chicken's or rooster's. it had the dark green skin of a crocodile, with rivulets shining like a fine pair of books, and somebody had tied a handkerchief with the border-disarmament symbol around its neck."
A piglike reptile, or reptile-like pig, with a beak that loves carrots, is making a political statement against border militarization. Once extinct, the truffle pigs' resurrection by scientific means coincides with the return of the indigenous Aranaña tribe. This not-so-subtle coincidence, along with shrunken heads, incongruous facts, misleading narratives, stolen construction equipment, and an unlikely relationship between "two men, winding their way through a labyrinthine conspiracy," provides a deep scaffold for this head-shakingly brilliant book.
According to FSG Originals, "A parallel universe. South Texas. A third border wall might be erected between the United States and Mexico, narcotics are legal and there's a new contraband on the market: filtered animals—species of animals brought back from extinction to amuse the very wealthy.
Esteban Bellacosa has lived in the border town of MacArthur long enough to know to keep quiet and avoid the dangerous syndicates who make their money through trafficking. But his simple life gets complicated after a swashbuckling journalist invites him to an underground dinner at which filtered animals are served. Bellacosa soon finds himself in the middle of an increasingly perilous and surreal journey, in the course of which he encounters legends of the long-disappeared Aranaña Indian tribe and their object of worship: the mysterious Trufflepig, said to possess strange powers."
Tears of a Trufflepig is a shiveringly imaginative reminder that Mexico was surrealism's palimpsest and colonial imaginary, layered with wheat-pasted sediment. The braids woven and unraveled are a formula for the multiplication of past presents that amplify outward, backward, and forward. The narrative lines, hypertexts of onomatopoe(t)ic endorphins, evoke visions of an intergalactic indigenous tale of border brujeria and the invention of necessity. An unanticipated solidarity convened by the curiosity of a writer, his characters, and us the readers – or listeners – wondering where the next trufflepig will emerge.
As J. David Gonzalez wrote in the Los Angeles Review of Books, "The plot lines in Trufflepig are funhouse mirrors, reflecting the horrors of both our history and our headlines. The narco plot with cartels generating living, breathing, biological miracles for the sole purpose of exploitation, echoes colonialism's shadow. The shrunken heads plot, where the heads of the Aranaña are highly sought-after tokens of taste and sophistication, echoes imperialism's blood.
But it's the narrative that delights. When so much fiction feels like elegant dioramas, like masterfully crafted ships in bottles, Trufflepig feels organic and amorphous, like some biological organism, shape-shifting its way through the literary landscape, leaving a thin ribbon of goo in its wake. The plot is beside the point. There is a world to be discovered here.
In Trufflepig, Flores takes the well-worn, time-honored tradition of the psychedelic-sci-fi-punk-western-horror-noir and turns it on its ear. The psychological, the spiritual, and the political all intertwine in a cicatrix pattern, one stitch pinning the other into place. Trufflepig is a narcocorrido for the Island of Dr. Moreau. It's Roberto Bolaño and Gloria Anzaldúa dropping acid and staring into the desert sun. It's a metaphysical detective story about genocide, corruption, and families. References are layered over top of one another, like concert flyers on a light post."
All borders are categories, and all categories are borders, so why not invent and invent and invent as an ant-categorical category? What inspires invention's antonym? What is the relationship between design and border if innovation always claims to anticipate change? If species can be brought back from the dead, then living organized violences like authoritarianism certainly will propagate like foxes. Suppose the myth of the frontier is the psychological crack of American exceptionalism's coerced hegemonic hold on the political imaginary of fascists. Fernando T. Flores is a situationist anti-fascist inoculation against the mythological end of the proverbial myth. Get your shots.
Check out this interview with Flores at Gulf Coast Magazine.