The Mutations (Hardcover)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374216535, 192pp.
Publication Date: November 12, 2019
A modern-day Flaubert takes us on a comic tour through a deeply neurotic Mexico City
Ramón Martinez is a militant atheist, successful lawyer, and conventional family man. But all of that changes when his privileged life disintegrates after cancer of the tongue deprives him of the source of his power and livelihood: speech.
Jorge Comensal’s The Mutations is a comedy tracing the metastasis of Ramón’s cancer through his body and through the lives of his family members, colleagues, and doctors, dissecting the experience of illness and mapping the relationships both strengthened and frayed in its wake. Mateo and Paulina, his teenage children, struggle with the temptations of masturbation and binge-eating, respectively. Ramón’s melancholic oncologist is haunted by the memory of a young patient whom he was unable to save. His selfish pathologist believes Ramón’s tumor holds the key to a major scientific breakthrough. And then Elodia, Ramón’s pious maid, brings him a foul-mouthed parrot as a birthday gift, and this filthy bird becomes Ramón's companion, confidant, and unlikely double.
Paying homage to forebears such as Sontag, Didion, Flaubert, and Tolstoy, and filled with a rough-hewn poetry of regret, rage, and, finally, resignation, The Mutations offers up a profound and funny cross section of modern Mexico, as well as a bold treatment of an unspeakable yet universal reality.
About the Author
Jorge Comensal was born in Mexico City in 1987. He was the recipient of scholarships from the Fundación para las Letras Mexicanas and the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, and has been published in such periodicals as Letras Libres, Este País, and VICE. The Mutations is his first novel.
Charlotte Whittle's translations and writing have appeared in The Literary Review, Guernica, BOMB, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. Her translation of Norah Lange's People in the Room was published in 2018. She lives in New York and is an editor at Cardboard House Press.
Praise For The Mutations: A Novel…
"The Mutations is a wonderful novel, as tragic as it is comic, as classical as it is contemporary, and above all impossible to forget. After reading it, you'll wish that there were many more novels by Jorge Comensal ready for you to enjoy—but since this is his first, we'll just have to wait patiently till his next brilliant book is done." —Alejandro Zambra, author of Multiple Choice
“Sharp, hilarious, yet sensitive—an amazing first novel!” —Guadalupe Nettel, author of After the Winter
"Through the story of an illness and an exploration of the fear of death, Jorge Comensal has created a world both absurd and hilarious, yet one that also touches on our darkest emotions. The Mutations is one of the greatest Latin American novels of recent years." —Daniel Saldaña París, author of Among Strange Victims
"Jorge Comensal's The Mutations oscillates masterfully between comedy and tragedy, gathering up in its pages a stupendous panoply of characters before whom the reader is never sure whether to smile in sympathy or pity." —Fernando Aramburu, author of Homeland
"The Mutations is a speculative exercise, implacable as cancer itself, on the limits of compassion. An uncompromising inquiry that tries to answer a sinister, almost eschatological question: What to do when faced with the news of an incurable disease?" —Juan Pablo Villalobos, author of I'll Sell You a Dog
"No contemporary Mexican novel has impressed me as much as Jorge Comensal's The Mutations. Barely exceeding 200 pages, this debut novel is both hilarious and funereal, a clinical history turned portrait of death." —Christopher Domínguez Michael, El Universal