Two subjects seem inescapable for a Mexican author who works with the space of the border: immigration, drug trafficking, and, consequently, the violence associated with these two phenomena. Nonetheless, this swift and simplifying identification can be deceiving in the effort to create a taxonomy of border literature, especially in the case of a writer like Yuri Herrera, born in Actopan in the Mexican state of Hidalgo.
Herrera’s case appears more problematic, precisely because, since his first novel, Kingdom Cons (2005), Herrera has been seen by critics as a border writer and, indirectly, as a natural representative of a subgenre of border literature: the narconovela. This stance is supported, for example, by the Mexican critic Christopher Domínguez Michael, who suggests that Yuri Herrera’s “refined and lyrical prose” represents, up to now, the peak of this narrative form: “less than a beginning, it is the end of the path.” In this context, Domínguez Michael argues that Herrera’s first two novels, Kingdom Cons and Signs Preceding the End of the World (2009), will outlive many other novels within this genre, which will “lose all relevance when speaking of Mexico in the time of the drug wars.” Nevertheless, this classification is as indulgent as it is deceiving. Because, without a doubt, what distinguishes and isolates Herrera from other border writers – or from narco literature in general – are not the subjects he addresses, but rather the language with which he addresses these subjects. There are other points of view, of course. For the critic Eduardo Parra, “addressing drug trafficking in literature represents a problem. Without a chronological perspective or reliable testimonies that help to consider its real-world reach, in order to write about the subject, the author must find an angle that allows him to enter into its secrets without falling into journalism. Perhaps for this reason, most Mexican writers who have written about the subject have focused on it obliquely.” But Herrera is perhaps the author who has traveled furthest in the use of this method, creating out of the ellipsis a style – almost a form of poetry.
And Herrera, with his “lyrical and refined” prose, has not only developed what Gabriel Wolfson