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Review: Aura Xilonen's The Gringo Champion

Author: Jade Colbert
Newspaper: The Globe and Mail
Date: Jun 2 2017

Those familiar with Campeon gabacho in Aura Xilonen’s original Spanish note its baroque style: Liborio, the teenage street-fighter narrator who at the novel’s beginning works in a Spanish-language bookshop, eats a dictionary to understand poetry and spits out his words most often to cuss. Andrea Rosenberg’s translation should be praised for rising to the challenge of invention: The Gringo Champion is, too, a Jabberwocky creation of slang, nonce and portmanteaux – meaning derived from words’ mouthfeel as much as anything else. The scrappy vernacular is to match Liborio’s story: an undocumented immigrant fleeing violence and abuse in Mexico, his short life thus far has been a series of beatings and scrapes, his time in the United States navigated between xenophobia and exploitation, hunted by immigration officers. Translated two years after its original publication in Mexico, The Gringo Champion arrives when it is urgently needed, its central question – whether Liborio can find stability amid circumstances that force him into perpetual fight or flight – of pressing political concern.