Profile of Carmen Boullosa @ The Modern Novel

Carmen Boullosa (born in Mexico City in 1954) is one of Mexico's leading novelists, poets and playwrights. The prolific author, who has had literally scores of books, essays and dissertations written about her work, has been lauded by critics on several continents. "As playful as a mischievous Puck," says Elena Poniatowska; she has "a heart-stopping command of language," says Alma Guillermoprieto; "one of the most dazzling of Latin America's new generation," according to Publishers Weekly; “Mexico’s best woman writer,” wrote Roberto Bolaño.

Roberto Bolaño on Carmen Boullosa

Half of her thirteen novels deal with historical themes - the world of Moctezuma, the early Colonial period in Mexico City, the life of pirates in the 17th Century Caribbean, the era of Cervantes - and some have been translated into Italian, Dutch, German, French, Portuguese, Chinese, and Russian. Three are available in English (from Grove Press). The most recent English translation, Cleopatra Dismounts, "lavishly reimagines the life of the legendary Cleopatra of Egypt in a daring intermingling of fantasy and history," according to one reviewer, and the Washington Post spoke of the book's "exhilarating" and "incantatory prose" which left the reader "yearning for more of this talented author's work."

Her novel set in Cervantes' time, La otra mano de Lepanto, was brought out in 2005 by Siruela, in Spain, and by Fondo de Cultura Económica, in Mexico. On January 8, 2006, it was named by Reforma's distinguished critic Sergio González Rodríguez as the Best Novel Published in Mexico in 2005. In 2007, it was selected by a global jury as one of the Top 100 Novels Published in Spanish over the last quarter century, anywhere in the world, one of only six Mexican novels so honored.

Reforma also designated (on January 2, 2005) her Salto de mantarraya (y otros dos) as the Best Book of Poems Published in Mexico in 2004.

In 2007, her next book, La novela perfecta (The Perfect Novel) -- a science-fiction novel set in Brooklyn and published by Alfaguara in Mexico -- was again selected by Reforma as the Best Novel Published in Mexico in 2006. (For an excerpt in English, click here)

Her latest novel, published in Spring 2007 by Siruela in Spain, is El velázquez de París (The Parisian Velázquez).

Boullosa's many plays have also had major critical and popular success – notably Los Totoles, which won the Mexico City critics Play of the Year prize, and the controversial Cocinar hombres, which ran for three years.

Boullosa also writes (and prints) art books, mixing image and text, which have been exhibited at the Museo de Arte Moderno de la Ciudad de México, the Sala Pablo Ruiz Picasso del Museo de Arte Moderno de Madrid, and the New York Public Library owns a full collection. Her poems have also appeared in the art books of leading painters such as Juan Soriano, Magali Lara, Othón Tellez and Philip Hughes, whose book with Boullosa, Jump of the Manta Ray, was a 2003 British Book Design Award finalist.

With Salman Rushdie, Boullosa co-founded the Mexico City House for Persecuted Writers at Mexico City, and together with Rushdie and Distinguished Professor of History Mike Wallace, she has been exploring the possibility of a similar operation being established on Governor's Island.

Boullosa has also had a distinguished teaching career - holding visiting appointments at San Diego State, Georgetown, La Sorbonne (Alfonso Reyes Chair) - and has lectured at Brown, Princeton, Irvine, UCLA, and institutions in England (Trinity College at Oxford), Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, and elsewhere.

In 2001, she came to New York as a fellow of the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers, and decided to spend more time in the city. In 2002-2003 she was Visiting Professor at NYU (holding the Andrés Bello Chair). During 2003-2004 she was Visiting Professor at Columbia. Since 2004, she has been Distinguished Lecturer at City College, CUNY, in the Foreign Languages Department.

Since 2005, she has co-hosted the CUNY-T.V. show Nueva York, in which she interviews major Spanish-speaking writers, artists and intellectuals.

In 2007 she co-founded Café Nueva York, a group of writers who work in Spanish and live in New York, dedicated to reclaiming the forgotten legacy of their forebears who also wrote in Spanish and lived in New York. She will also be a consultant to Nueva York, a major exhibition to be mounted by the New York Historical Society, on the 400-year history of New York’s relations with the Spanish-speaking world.

For an interview with the author that appeared in BOMB Magazine, see: