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Book Title

Tomb Song

A Novel
Author 1
Julián Herbert; Translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
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.

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An incandescent new voice from Mexico, for readers of Ben Lerner and Rachel Cusk

About the Author

Julián  Herbert
Credit: Germán Siller

Julián Herbert was born in Acapulco in 1971. He is a writer, musician, and teacher, and is the author of The House of the Pain of Others and Tomb Song, as well as several volumes of poetry and two story collections. He lives in Saltillo, Mexico.

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Christina MacSweeney is the translator of The House of the Pain of Others and Tomb Song by Julián Herbert, and has published translations, articles, and interviews on a wide variety of platforms and contributed to several anthologies. She was awarded the 2016 Valle Inclán Translation Prize for her translation of Valeria Luiselli's The Story of My Teeth. She lives in England.
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  • “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)
  • “I loved Tomb Song for being a ballsy and honest account of a life that isn’t only well told but actually worth telling, full of contained sadness, self-deprecating humour and indefatigable tenderness.”—Mateo García Elizondo, The Guardian
  • Tomb Song . . . is one of the most important, exciting, and original works of literature to come out of Latin America in the past decade.”Los Angeles Review of Books
  • “Simultaneously gorgeous and dirty, [Herbert] brings us poignant moments of beauty.”Washington Independent Review of Books
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