By Mario Bellatin
Translated from the Spanish by poet and translator David Shook
Mario Bellatin’s earth-shattering allegory of plague that brought him to his cult status as auteur of Latin America's most singular literary vision, in a brand-new translation by poet and translator Shook.
Publication Date: October 19, 2021
Mario Bellatin’s complex dreamscape, offered here in a brand-new translation, presents a timely allegorical portrait of the body and society in decay, victim to inscrutable pandemic.
In a large, unnamed city, a strange, highly infectious disease begins to spread, afflicting its victims with an excruciating descent toward death, particularly unsparing in its assault of those on society's margins. Spurned by their loved ones and denied treatment by hospitals, the sick are left to die on the streets until a beauty salon owner, whose previous caretaking experience extended only to the exotic fish tanks scattered among his workstations, opens his doors as a refuge. In the ramshackle Mortuary, victim to persecution and violence, he accompanies his male guests as they suffer through the lifeless anticipation of certain death, eventually leaving the wistful narrator in complete, ill-fated isolation.
Lambda Literary's September 2021 Most Anticipated LGBTQ Literature
“A strange and elegiac little novel, steeped in sadness and decay. A book that’s obtusely about disease and isolation that ties accidentally and snugly into our current world.” —Justin Souther, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, The Southern Bookseller Review
“Some authors defy easy classification, and then there’s Mario Bellatin. His work includes forays into the metafictional, the transgressive, and the phantasmagorical; nonetheless, he can also evoke a deeply moving strand of humanism throughout his books. Attempting to summarize his bibliography is no easy task; he’s the sort of writer one could just as easily compare to Dennis Cooper as you could to Alejandro Jodorowsky. His short novel Beauty Salon was first published during one pandemic and is now available in a new translation during another…This new translation, by Shook, offers readers a clear and resonant account of Bellatin’s work; the combination makes for a tense, moving book…[A] particularly haunting read.” —Tobias Carroll, Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"Like much of Mr. Bellatin's work, Beauty Salon is pithy, allegorical and profoundly disturbing, with a plot that evokes The Plague by Camus or Blindness by Jose Saramago."—New York Times
“What [the narrator] has given to [his patients], and Bellatin to us, is a model for dying, and for living; for treating the abject body with honesty and respect, despite its difference and decay—perhaps because of it.”—Maggie Riggs, Words Without Borders
"Including a few details that may linger uncomfortably with the reader for a long time, this is contemporary naturalism as disturbing as it gets."–Booklist
"An unflinching allegory on death."—Publishers Weekly
"When this disquieting novella appeared, Mexican (and even Latin American) literature changed." —Francisco Goldman
"Bellatin's short novel on the space between hope & hopelessness manages to be both cynical and empathetic, picking apart the mechanisms we use to get to the end of the day, while also, somehow, giving us the push we need to get there. The Beauty Salon is the perfect plague story, because, the plague is less a character in the plot, then the stage hand that pulls back the curtain to reveal the true nature of our society." —Josh Cook, Bookseller, Porter Square Books
“Having more or less avoided pandemic works during the covid pandemic, it was probably about time to read a pandemic novel, However, this is not a pandemic novel but, rather, a pandemic story. However, it is by the great Mario Bellatin, has now been twice translated into English and is very good.” —The Modern Novel
“It's a quietly bitter, carefully outraged indictment of the fear and loathing that queers with AIDS faced when there was no hope, no treatment, no medical possibility of a future.” —Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud
Mexican writer Mario Bellatin has published dozens of novels with major and minor publishing houses throughout Latin America, Europe, and the United States, including Shiki Nagaoka: A Nose for Fiction and Jacob the Mutant, both from Phoneme Media. A practicing Sufi, Bellatin has won many international prizes, including, most recently, Cuba’s 2015 José María Arguedas Prize. He lives in Mexico City, Mexico.
David Shook's many translations include work by Mario Bellatin, Tedi López Mills, and Víctor Terán. Their collection of poetry, Our Obsidian Tongues, was long-listed for the International Dylan Thomas Prize. They live in Los Angeles.