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Time Commences in Xibalbá

Luis de Lión; Translated by Nathan C. Henne

Publication Year: 2012

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.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. vii-vii

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Translator’s Introduction: Translation and a Poetics of the Uncertain

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pp. ix-xxvii

i am happy to inform the readers of this translation of Luis de Lión’s novel El tiempo principia en Xibalbá that, rather than being at the traditional “disadvantage” compared to those who read the novel in its original language, my readers might actually understand the ...

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First There Was the Wind . . .

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pp. 1-28

It blew into town like it was just playing—jumping all over the place, flicking at the muddy trousers of the tired, bored, sleepy men; tickling the little boys’ tummies; sneaking up the women’s skirts, licking their grimy, shapeless legs.—¡Look! What a mischievous little ...

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The Other Half of the Night They Didn’t Sleep . . .

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pp. 29-47

All the people were straining their eyes, scanning the horizon— like they were calling up a vision of a woman they had seen before— trying to catch sight of the first steps of the day as it would move over the hump of Cucurucho Hill; their ears stretched toward the ...

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And, in Fact, They Were Alive . . .

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pp. 48-62

But it wasn’t the same as all the other days; it was different, a totally new kind of day that arrived suddenly, without any birds chirping to announce its arrival; and its copper sun was born on the opposite side of the sky from where it normally rose; and its rays ...

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And the Day Came . . .

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pp. 63-77

And when they realized that they weren’t dead after all, they commenced rebuilding the village, wanting to reinvent it exactly like the image of it they’d had in their brains for centuries. But they realized that they would have to do it all over again . . . But then they didn’t do ...

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Epi . . . taph

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pp. 78-81

He took the latchstring on the front gate and pulled it out of the hole so that it couldn’t be opened from the street anymore—the string that the people would pull, without knocking, to let themselves in when they came to ask him for corn, beans, flowers, alms; and he ...

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pp. 82-84

Because, ever since the village church slowly emerged from its foundations,—little by little, like an immobile and nameless bird that came into the world without needing to be hatched from an egg, and whose bones were born first, then its flesh, and finally its feathers ...

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

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pp. 85-115

It is nearly impossible to understand Luis de Lión’s masterpiece, Time Commences in Xibalbá (1985), without knowing the context of what happened in Guatemala, his country of origin more or less since the 1970s, or without understanding the emergence of a ...

About the Author, About the Translator

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pp. 117-119

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599462
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816521340

Page Count: 136
Publication Year: 2012