Tony Góngora is an ex–rocker who now works as a screenplay writer. One day, his childhood friend, Mario Müller invites him to come to work in La Pirámide, a hotel on the Mexican coast that he manages. There, his main task is to devise a way of transforming the movements of the fish who live in various aquariums into sounds to relax the hotel’s guests. Then, to face a crisis in the hotel business, Mario devises a plan which he regards as brilliant, but Tony thinks is ridiculous: converting the anxieties of danger of his guests into controlled realities. His guests fears of kidnappings, natural disasters and threats from guerrillas are enacted, all with the aim of giving them the opportunity to return to Europe or the USA with the feeling of having experienced an adrenalined filled adventure. But things, as always, don’t quite work out as anticipated. One day someone dies: Ginger Oldenville, a diving instructor, is found floating in the aquarium wearing an apron. Tony Góngora’s journey to recover his identity is the excuse to create a fresco in which various characters take control their past in whatever way they can. Paradoxically, their attempts to rewrite their stories and deform their lives, leads to unlikely consequences, turning their pasts into something unacceptable. Ultimately, the difficulty of fighting against self-inflicted wounds can end up causing even more damage. A tropical thriller, which doesn’t seem like a tropical thriller.

«Ominous atmospheres that bring to mind the apocalyptic or ghostly fictions of Ballard. The dialogues have a dry irony and the best wit and psychological observations of Chandler. Arrecife is a perfect novel in its representation of the disdain for life of its narrator and the almost heroic efforts of his friend, the ill-fated Mario, to show him the way out.In this magnificent novel by Juan Villoro, there is no respite» (J. Ernesto Ayala-Dip,El País).

«A studied language, rigorous originality and incisive irony drive the writing, which undertakes a reflection of the ethical values of our times and the communal implications of personal choice.... A rich cast of contrasting characters in extreme situations take part in this ingenious puzzle with a spectacular novelistic outcome» (Jesús Ferrer, La Razón).

«Arrecife can be read as interesting pulp fiction with a multi-layered social critique. The author has managed to create a claustrophobic atmosphere, making something that could be real into a story within a story... Don’t take your eyes off this promising Mexican author» (Joaquín Marco, El Cultural, El Mundo).

«A book with a singular purity… In the novel, everything seems clear and all the protagonists aspire to transparency. Which inevitably leads to immense darkness… Villoro deserves a significant place in contemporary Spanish literature (not only latin-american), as capricious as it is. In the end, the best I can do is invite you to read it» (Alejandro Gándara,El Escorpión).

«The irrefutable proof that we are in the hands of a major author is evident in this writer’s enviable capacity to suddenly change subjects and registers when everything seems to be leading in the same direction» (Ricardo Baixeras,El Periódico).

«Villoro has based his book on that sadomasochistic phenomenon that leads some privileged tourists to seek to spend their weekends at a concentration camp or in the dungeons of the Inquisition.He gives his fiction an ethnical-mythological-telluric edge that makes it completely believable... A magnificent novel» (Iñaki Ezquerra,El Correo Español).

«A book that isn’t far from Crime and Punishment. There is a murder, a strong moral dialogue and a protagonist who fights to save himself... Villoro reminds us that the news full of violence  is an everyday occurrence in Mexico and many tourists choose to ignore that risk, despite being aware that they may find themselves caught up in it at any moment. It’s to satisfy this morbid curiosity that La Pirámide offers a catalogue of dangerous activities, directed at adventurous tourists who seek near-death experiences» (Josep Lambies,Time Out Barcelona).


Read Samantha Schnee's report for New Spanish Books in English.


  • France (Buchet Chastel)
  • Germany (Hanser)
  • Italy (Gran Vía)
  • Brazil (Companhia das Letras)
  • USA (George Braziller)
  • Greece (Apopeira)
Juan Villoro

Juan Villoro

Juan Villoro born in Mexico City in 1956, he worked as cultural attaché at the Mexican embassy in the then Democratic Republic of Germany as well as contributing to numerous magazines and newspapers. He was also managing editor of the magazine Pauta and manager of La Jornada Semanal, the cultural supplement of the newspaper La Jornada, from 1995 to 1998. He is currently a professor of literature at the  Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and a visiting professor at Princeton, Yale, Boston and the Pompeu i Fabra de Barcelona. He regulalry contributes to the newspapers La Jornada (Mexico), El País (Spain) and El Periódico (Spain), and in publications like Letras Libres, Proceso, Nexos, Reforma and the Italian Internazionale. He has been awarded various prizes for his work as a writer, essayist, author of children’s books  and translator of major works from German and English. Juan Villoro is increasingly regarded as one of the most important Latin American writers working today.