The OF Blog: Xavier Velasco, Diablo Guardián

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Xavier Velasco, Diablo Guardián

No lo puedo creer.  La última ve que hice esto tenía un sacerdote enfrente.  Y tenía una maleta llenísima de dólares, lista para salvarme del Infierno.  ¿Sabes, Diablo Guardián?  Te sobra cola para sacerdote, y aun así tendría que mentirte para que me absolvieras.  Tú, que eres un tramposo, ¿nunca sentiste como que se te agotaban las reservas de patrañas?  Ya sé que me detestas por decirte mentiras, y más por esconderte las verdades.  Por eso ahora me toca contarte la verdad.  Enterita, ¿me entiendes?  Escríbela, revuélvela, llénala de calumnias, hazle lo que tú quieras.  No es más que la verdad, y verdades ya ves que siempre sobran.  Señorita Violetta, ¿podría usted contarnos qué tanto hay de verdad en su cochina vida de mentiras?  ¿Qué hay de cierto en la witch disfrazada de bitch, come on sugar darling let me scratch your itch?  Puta madre, qué horror, no quiero confesarme. (p. 11)
Tales of prodigals, men and women alike, appeal to us not only because some of us reader sympathize with their lack of restraint and their giving in to total hedonism, but also because for some readers, seeing such characters get their comeuppance serves as a justification by proxy of their own decisions to refrain from any indulging of the senses.  The story of the "pretty woman," the hooker with the heart of gold, has been told in many guises, but what about a tale of a girl who descends, through spendthrift actions, from the upper middle-class to prostitution and yet who does not see herself as a victim in any real shape or form whatsoever? 

It is this latter premise that makes Xavier Velasco's 2003 Premio Alfaguara-winning novel, Diablo Guardián, such an intriguing story.  It traces the life of a fifteen year-old girl, who now goes by the pseudonym of Violetta, from the time she stole $100,000 from her parents (who in turn had embezzled that money from fraudulent Red Cross transactions) to her flight to New York and her subsequent blowing of that money over the course of lavish parties and blow until she turns to hotel "encounters" in order to maintain even a semblance of her party life.  Accompanying her in her descent into hedonistic excess is a frustrated, egotistical writer known as "Pig," who watches, somewhat helplessly, as he finds himself following along with this girl with whom he has developed some feelings.  All the while, there is this vague sense of a metaphorical Mephistopheles, a guardian devil of sorts, guiding and sheltering Violetta.

If this premise alone does not sound enticing, Velasco manages to imbue the narrative with an almost effortless vibrancy.  Although it is difficult to claim that Velasco is an accomplished stylist (if anything, the prose has a roughness to it that somehow manages to fit the story being told), the narrative certainly has a casualness to it that dovetails nicely with the tale of excess and (mostly) unrepentant attitude toward misfortunes.  The characters of Violetta and Pig are well-rendered and their plights feel real and not overly contrived.

However, there are a few weaknesses.  At times, the narrative gets bogged down in detailing the minutiae of Violetta's extravagant lifestyle.  This in turn led to a loss of narrative impact for much of the novel's middle portions.  The final scenes, however, manage to recapture much of the novel's earlier energy.  Although the conclusion is a bit surprising in some regards, for the most part it ties together the narrative nicely.  Diablo Guardián might not be a technically perfect novel, but even despite its warts and all, it is one of the more original and powerfully told stories to win the Premio Alfaguara. 

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