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Red Ants

Red Ants

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By Pergentino José
Translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead

This vibrant collection of short stories, the first literary translation from Sierra Zapotec, updates magical realism for the 21st century.

Publication Date: November 3, 2020

Paperback: 9781646050192
eBook: 9781646050185


A literary triumph by a member of the Mexico20 (the list that boasts Valeria Luiselli and Carlos Velasquez, among others), Red Ants is the first-ever literary translation from the Sierra Zapotec. This vibrant collection of short stories by one of Mexico’s most promising young authors paints a candid picture of indigenous Mexican life—an essential counterpoint to cultural products of the colonial gaze. José’s fantastical stories tackle themes of family, love, and independence in his signature style: unapologetically personal, coolly emotional, and always surprising.


“José is a rising star in Mexican literature, and this collection of short fiction, which examines indigenous life in the U.S.’s southern neighbor through the lens of a contemporary magic realism, should only further his acclaim. Veteran Spanish translator Bunstead… takes José’s clean, punchy lines and makes them sing—and stick with you." —John Maher, Publishers Weekly

“A set of short stories in which the peculiarity and the fantasy of Zapotec popular legends are brought to life by the imaginative and powerful pen of a great author in the making—what is perhaps a true breath of fresh and original air that does our national literature much good." —Mónica Maristain

“These stories are situated within an imaginary (of Pergentino José making) that is consistent from one story to the next…but it is an image that is not reflected in the rest of Mexican literature. This collection is poised to become a new and encouraging contribution.” —Altantl Molina, Marvin Magazine

"These stories are teeming with life and crawling with movement. They are, like magical realism itself, the articulation of a lived experience that is inexplicable without the fantastic...Reading Red Ants is a visceral experience, at once exhausting and exhilarating, captivating and confounding.”— Samuel Miller, Asymptote Journal

"Immersive, yielding coolly depicted tableaux of psychic terror.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal 

"While at times in folklore some of these can be symbols of death, at others they may be good omens. In Pergentino José’s tales, they can be both—destructive and benevolent.” —Lanie Tankard, Indie Book Review Editor for The Woven Tail Press

Red Ants, Zapotec writer Pergentino José blends magical realism with the mythology of his upbringing to shine a light on the historical struggles of Mexico’s indigenous communities — and to make clear that the threats they face have not gone away….he succeeds in taking readers to a different world, one that they did not expect but will be unlikely to forget.”  Mariana Reina, Americas Quarterly

Biographical Note

Pergentino Jose was born in 1981 in a Zapotec village in the Pacific highlands of Oaxaca. He has published poetry and prose in both Zapotec and Spanish and is a member of the Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte, the Mexican government's prestigious fellowship program for artists and writers. Red Ants is his first book in English, and the first literary translation into English from the Sierra Zapotec.