I Will Sell You a Dog
Te vendo un perro
In a dilapidated building in Mexico City, a group of old people spend their time discussing neighbourhood quarrels and literature. Teo, the seventy-eight year old narrator and protagonist of this story, is obsessed with Adorno’s Aesthetic theory, which he applies to a variety of domestic problems. A retired taquero and talented but frustrated artist, his main worries are paying for the drinks he imbibes every day with his meagre savings, writing a false novel in his notebook and calculating his chances of going to bed with Francesca –the president of the neighbourhood association– or with Juliette –a revolutionary shopkeeper –, with whom he has built a sexual triangle for OAPs that «would have made even Freud’s beard stand on end». One day, the routine of the building is interrupted with the arrival of youth in the form of Willem –a Mormon from Utah–, Mao –a clandestine Maoist– and Dorotea –the sweet Cervantine heroine and granddaughter of Juliette–, which leads to an absurdist crescendo with a climax capable of wetting your trousers. Following Adorno’s dictates, which affirm that «pure art finds the comedy in tragedy», and mixing fragments from the past and the present, this novel follows the history of art and politics in Mexico during the last eighty years, marked by a family story that remembers the forgotten, the cursed, the marginal, the disappeared and the dogs who make their homes on the streets.
With his third novel, the Mexican writer Juan Pablo Villalobos, after the excellent reception in both Spanish and other languages of the Fiesta en la madriguera and Si viviéramos en un lugar normal, confirms his position as an essential writer, with a personal voice and a strikingly original original sense of humour.
«Savagely funny novel» (The New York Times)
«I’ll Sell You A Dog is a reminder of how effortless literature should be to love. This unexpected ride through a character’s second childhood, his building, neighbourhood and history is so magically twisted that it could be real. As ever Villalobos writes a peephole through politics and time, to simply watch us dance in all our lurid whimsy» (DBC Pierre).
«Villalobos’ farce spares no one. And with the laughter there emerges a compassion for people living marginal lives which positions the novel on the side of the unexpected and unknown, as the novel demands the imagination’s autonomy over reality, thus rebuking the conventions of fiction in a way that is as stimulating as the novel’s humour» (Francisco Solano, El País).
«The natural heir to the magic and sense of humour of the great Jorge Ibargüengoitia» (Xavi Sancho, El País, ICON).
«A rounded introductory history that takes the reader through a narration in which Juan Pablo Villalobos consolidates a prose with a profound sense of humour, which is sometimes grotesque, other times subtle and surreal… but always clever» (Iñigo Urrutia, El Diario Vasco).
«Juan Pablo Villalobos takes hillarious aim at the political and cultural history of his country… His third and most brutal novel confirms his position in the premier league of contemporary Mexican fiction» (Matías Néspolo, El Mundo).
«Te vendo un perro is a hilarious novel and at the same time a bitter portrait of the contemporary artist … Villalobos has found his own personal tone and rhythm, unlike any other in contemporary Mexican fiction. Villalobos makes us laugh at the absurd and in doing so, he shows us the senselessness of this world. This reader is very grateful for that» (Fernando García Ramírez, Letras Libres).
«In this third novel, Te vendo un perro, Juan Pablo Villalobos constructs a meta-poetic narrative edifice with infinite patience and elegant modesty, condensing the story of a Mexico facing a dire situation seen through the lives of a collection of characters. Villalobos confronts this portrait of a damaged society with a corrosive eye and a serious intention. Using a comic touch and a sardonic realism, the author denounces the persistence of an intransigent and painful past with a sceptic eye. Using powerful caricature the author confronts the social and individual reality of a broken and tragi-comic social reality... Sometimes his comedy reveals a cruel enjoyment of the suffering of his characters, but Villalobos is a virtuoso of irony, with a contagious, imaginative, perverse and courageous sense of humour. With a cheerful instinct, his writing is incisive, its tone vital and intelligent, the characters unique … Te vendo un perro becomes a hilarious delirium, a twisted novel, as fun as it is surreal» (Aitor Francos, El Cuaderno).
«Juan Pablo Villalobos’s new book is one of the wittiest, most whimsical, most enjoyable novels to have been published in Spanish for a long time» (Alberto Manguel, The Guardian)
«This is the third novel by Villalobos (Quesadillas, 2014, etc.), and it should help establish his reputation as a maniacally witty writer of satire and absurdity. He takes on Mexican history, literary theory, and the just-scraping-by lives of the 99 percent, all while telling a damn good story. He has a novelist’s eye for detail, a painter’s for image, and a poet’s for turn of phrase. Remember those cockroaches? They “take advantage” of the building’s elevator to ride “downstairs to visit their associates.” A wry, sardonic romp made even more vibrant by its various satires and absurdities» (Kirkus Reviews).
«Villalobos is a kind of miniature Proust, and the affable I'll Sell You a Dog finds lost time not in grand narrative but in the idle chatter of neighbors» (Publishers Weekly).
«I’ll Sell You a Dog” will be reassuringly familiar terrain for fans of Villalobos - satirical, sleazy and head-twistingly smart» (Andy Miller, Spectator).
«Villalobos has a light touch in this book, and perfect narrative control. He doesn’t lean too hard on his jokes and he doesn’t push a single carácter into caricature… I´ll Sell You a Do gis a satire, but it is full of affection for art and for artists» Lily Meyer, NRP
«Despite the book’s immediacy, its ability to stand at a distance and capture contemporary issues in perspective (no mean feat for any writer), as well as the voices of the characters, in particular that of Teo, will endure long after these issues have passed into dusty irrelevance» Amanda Sarasien, The Literary Review
«I’ll Sell You a Dog is a hilarious, clever, and at times meta-tale following the life of a 78-year-old retired taco seller (Teo) and his recent adventures in his new residency – the retirement home. The novel has an essence of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and the narrator can be seen as an older version of Holder Caulfield rebellion, but in an older generation revolution. As said by Teo’s accomplice: “we have got nothing to loose, we’ve barely got any future left» Rhys Richards, Buzz Magazine
«If you fancy some witty, dazzling entertainment with ideas that will ricochet around your head long past Reading, give this book a go – you will not be sold a pup but a real dog!» Peakreads
«Few authors write with such highly strung and poetic exuberance as Juan Pablo Villalobos» The Big Issue
Juan Pablo Villalobos was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1973. His first novel, Fiesta en la madriguera (Anagrama, 2010), published in English as Down the Rabbit Hole (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2012) was shortlisted for The Guardian First Book Award), and with the last one, No voy a pedirle a nadie que me crea, (Anagrama, 2016) he was awarded the Herralde Novel Prize 2016. His novels has been translated into fifteen languages. He writes for several publications, including Granta, Letras Libres, Gatopardo and English Pen's Blog, and translates Brazilian literature into Spanish. He has been member of the judging panel of the José Revueltas National Prize for Young Novelists 2014, the International Dublin Literary Award 2016 and the Elena Poniatowska Iberoamerican Prize 2016. He has attended literary festivals and book fairs in Mexico, Spain, UK, United States, France, Germany, Brasil, Canada, Romania, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, Indonesia and Austria.
He left Mexico in 2003 and lived in Barcelona for several years, then moved to Brazil, and is now back in Spain. He is married with two Mexican-Brazilian-Catalan children.