Author: Juan Pablo Villalobos
Extent: 288 pp
Price: £ 11.99
Publication: April 2020
Publisher: And Other Stories (Inpress)
Winner of Spain’s prestigious Herralde Prize (previous winners include Bolaño and Javier Marías); hilarious and accessible this novel will appeal to readers of Yuri Herrera, Kurt Vonnegut and Malcolm Lowry
“I don’t expect anyone to believe me,” warns the narrator of this novel, a Mexican student called Juan Pablo Villalobos.
He is about to fly to Barcelona on a scholarship when he’s kidnapped in a bookshop and whisked away by thugs to a basement. The gangsters are threatening his cousin — a wannabe entrepreneur known to some as “Projects” and to others as “dickhead” — who is gagged and tied to a chair. The thugs say Juan Pablo must work for them. His mission? To make Laia, the daughter of a corrupt politician, fall in love with him. He accepts. . . . though not before the crime boss has forced him at gunpoint into a discussion on the limits of humour in literature.
Part campus novel, part gangster thriller, I Don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me is Villalobos at his best. Exuberantly foul-mouthed and intellectually agile, this hugely entertaining novel finds the light side of difficult subjects—immigration, corruption, family loyalty and love—in a world where the difference between comedy and tragedy depends entirely on who’s telling the joke.
Hilariously caustic, furnished with highly stylized coarse humour . . . Villalobos steers us through the jokes and disasters, and especially the nonsense, which he redeems with a leavening sarcasm that turns reading the book into a highly valuable act of literary renewal. Francisco Solano, El País