Sue Burke (mount_oregano) wrote,
Sue Burke

'Madrid' by Daniel Mares

Daniel Mares's first novel is what Connie Willis would have written if she were crude, vulgar, and born in Madrid. Mares is Spain's undisputed best science fiction humor writer, and his work has all her characteristic wit and ambition, but none of her good taste and decency. 

Simply titled Madrid, it opens with the words in big bold type: "¡HIJOOOS DE PU TA!" ("Sons of biiich es!"), a common chant among soccer fans. It closes with the same big bold chant. In fact, the entire novel takes place during a hooligan riot outside the Madrid soccer stadium 200 years in the future at a Madrid-Barcelona Champion's League final game. 

If that were not ambitious enough, large portions of the work are told in second person. That's because one of the hooligans is telepathic and is planting memories in his friend's mind about the lives of three people key to the future. One of them is a police inspector investigating the murder of a 15-year-old prostitute who had been his mistress. He's on the trail of a serial killer who will strike again, but a likely suspect is involved in an interplanetary diplomatic incident may escalate to a military invasion.

Meanwhile, the telepathic narrator also talks directly to the readers and frequently gets distracted by the police who are trying to break up the riot. It's hard to understand for the first few pages, then the storytelling style allows for endless jokes and asides. The book is genuinely funny, though not suitable for minors or even some adults. 

Little by little, the plot thickens until the two hooligans must protect the world from invasion, Madrid's soccer team from defeat, and the universe from destruction. Can they do it? And if they can, is this universe worth saving? Sadly, yes they can, and we live in a horrible place. In Madrid, to be exact. 

My question is, "Can this work be translated to English?" In one sense, yes. English has enough expletives. But the hard part would be the setting. Can non-Spaniards believe the kind of casual violence that accompanies soccer games here? Do they grasp the significance of a Madrid-Barça Champion's League final game? Would they get all the jokes about El Corte Inglés department store? 

American culture is so familiar around the world that a book set in Manhattan can play in Madrid. But not vice-versa. Connie Willis, translated into Spanish, sells well here. Daniel Mares' translation would need extra-wide-sized footnotes. But it might be worth it.
Tags: science fiction, spanish

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