Tomb Song

Tomb Song
A Novel
Julián Herbert; Translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney

“[Julián Herbert is] among the more interesting and ambitious prose stylists of our time. . . . Irresistibly wise.”Los Angeles Times

“This novel sprawls, but never loses sight of the human connection at its core—and it's all the more moving as a result.”Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

About the Book

An incandescent new voice from Mexico, for readers of Ben Lerner and Rachel Cusk
Sitting at the bedside of his mother as she is dying from leukemia in a hospital in northern Mexico, the narrator of Tomb Song is immersed in memories of his unstable boyhood and youth. His mother, Guadalupe, was a prostitute, and Julián spent his childhood with his half brothers and sisters, each from a different father, moving from city to city and from one tough neighborhood to the next.

Swinging from the present to the past and back again, Tomb Song is not only an affecting coming-of-age story but also a searching and sometimes frenetic portrait of the artist. As he wanders the hospital, from its buzzing upper floors to the haunted depths of the morgue, Julián tells fevered stories of his life as a writer, from a trip with his pregnant wife to a poetry festival in Berlin to a drug-fueled and possibly completely imagined trip to another festival in Cuba. Throughout, he portrays the margins of Mexican society as well as the attitudes, prejudices, contradictions, and occasionally absurd history of a country ravaged by corruption, violence, and dysfunction.

Inhabiting the fertile ground between fiction, memoir, and essay, Tomb Song is an electric prose performance, a kaleidoscopic, tender, and often darkly funny exploration of sex, love, and death. Julián Herbert’s English-language debut establishes him as one of the most audacious voices in contemporary letters.

Additional Reviews

“Simultaneously gorgeous and dirty, [Herbert] brings us poignant moments of beauty.”Washington Independent Review of Books

“Herbert takes a deep dive into an emotional, interconnected story on death, family, love and ambition, resulting in a work that is at once personal and universal.”Cedar Rapids Gazette

“At once a thrilling document of lives spent along the margins, and a bright burst of formal reinvention, Tomb Song remains elegiac and life-affirming.”BOMB

“A portrait of life and death in Mexico, Tomb Song blends fiction, memoir and essays in a genre-bending trip through memory.”Bustle

“From its pathos-filled prologue to its poignant closing lines, [Tomb Song] is shot through with fury and filial love. This sounds bleak—it isn’t. Indeed, it is one of the novel’s characteristics that it is able to swing from heartbreak to grisly humor within a few lines.”Words Without Borders

“[Tomb Song] proves to be a powerful meditation on maternity and convincingly draws parallels between the uncertainty of history versus memory.”Publishers Weekly

“Deeply observed; a welcome arrival by a writer worth paying attention to.”Kirkus Reviews

“A meditation on art, intimacy, and revolution. . . . Raw, heady, and wonderful.”Literary Hub

“This is a story infused with dreams of black magic, political unrest, lone flaneuring and hard drinking, but also one of kindness, compassion, sharp humour and a loquaciousness that one usually reserves for close friends.”3:AM Magazine

“It is our pleasure, as readers of Tomb Song, to witness this raw nerve’s transmission of pain, memory, genius.”The Arkansas International

“Beautiful and profane. . . . Herbert’s style, and his skill with the boundaries of genre and narrative distance, are singularly accomplished. . . . The literary performance of Tomb Song is captivating.”Cleaver

“Julián Herbert’s raw honesty leaves no one unmoved. Tomb Song is one of the most powerful books written in Spanish in the last decade.”—Daniel Saldaña París, author of Among Strange Victims