Time Commences in Xibalbá
152 pages, 6 x 9
1 b-w photograph
Release Date:15 Nov 2012

Time Commences in Xibalbá

By Luis de Lión; Translated by Nathan C. Henne; Afterword by Arturo Arias
The University of Arizona Press
Time Commences in Xibalbá tells the story of a violent village crisis in Guatemala sparked by the return of a prodigal son, Pascual. He had been raised tough by a poor, single mother in the village before going off with the military. When Pascual comes back, he is changed—both scarred and “enlightened” by his experiences. To his eyes, the village has remained frozen in time. After experiencing alternative cultures in the wider world, he finds that he is both comforted and disgusted by the village’s lingering “indigenous” characteristics.

De Lión manages to tell this volatile story by blending several modes, moods, and voices so that the novel never falls into the expected narrative line. It wrenches the reader’s sense of time and identity by refusing the conventions of voice and character to depict a new, multi-layered periphery. This novel demands that we leave preconceptions about indigenous culture at the front cover and be ready to come out the other side not only with a completely different understanding of indigeneity in Latin America, but also with a much wider understanding of how supposedly peripheral peoples actually impact the modern world.

The first translation into English of this thought-provoking novel includes a conluding essay by the translator suggesting that a helpful approach for the reader might be to see the work as enacting the never-quite-there poetics of translation underlying Guatemala’s indigenous heart. An afterword by Arturo Arias, the leading thinker on Indigenous modernities in Guatemala, offers important approaches to interpreting this challenging novel by showing how Guatemala’s colonial legacy cannot escape its racial overtones and sexual undertones as the nation-state struggles to find a suitable place in the modern world.
Luis de Lión’s novel is an exceptional text. It is one of a few truly valuable additions to a transcultural canon that would include works such as those by José María Arguedas, Rulfo, and Asturias.”—Juan E. De Castro, author of Mestizo Nations: Culture, Race, and Conformity in Latin American Literature
De Lión’s language glistens like that copper sun: stunningly imagistic, inventive, athletic, and utterly arresting. The poetics of the uncertain informs not only the subject matter but also the kaleidoscopic quality of his writing. This is a story to be chewed, digested, and savored."—Santa Fe New Mexican
Luis de Lión was a primary teacher who worked in rural schools in various parts of Guatemala and later taught classes at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City. On May 15, 1984, he was kidnapped by a death squad of the Guatemalan dictatorship as part of the anti-insurgency “dirty war,” because much of what he wrote was critical of the Guatemalan government. He is presumed to have been killed three weeks later. Born and raised in Guatemala, translator Nathan C. Henne now teaches Latin American Studies and Spanish at Loyola University New Orleans.
Translator’s Introduction: Translation and a Poetics of the Uncertain
Nathan C. Henne

First There Was the Wind . . .
The Other Half of the Night They Didn’t Sleep . . .
And, in Fact, They Were Alive . . .
And the Day Came . . .
Epi . . . taph

Afterword: Racialized Subalternity as Emancipatory Decolonial Project: Time Commences in Xibalbá by Luis de Lión
Arturo Arias
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