Magical realism may or may not be your cup of tea, but if it is, a new voice has been translated into English.
From an enchanting voice in Mexican fiction comes Sophia Segovia’s novel, THE MURMUR of BEES (AmazonCrossing). It’s about a mysterious child with the power to change a family’s history in a country on the verge of revolution.
From the day that old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican town forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil. But he is welcomed by landowners Francisco and Beatriz Morales, who adopt him and care for him as if he were their own. As he grows up, Simonopio becomes a cause for wonder to the Morales family, because when the uncannily gifted child closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can—visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. Followed by his protective swarm of bees and living to deliver his adoptive family from threats—both human and those of nature—Simonopio’s purpose in Linares will, in time, be divined.
Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.
It is flowered with magical realism, which has brought Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabelle Allende’s writings to readers minds.
We got to ask Sophia a few questions about THE MURMUR of BEES and she graciously answered them.
1.THE MURMUR of BEES is a journey. What do readers find so captivating about experiencing a journey on the written page?
Joseph Campbell wrote in The Hero of a Thousand Faces that “…we have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And…where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”
In The Murmur of Bees, the narrator goes on a journey while he reflects and tells us about another, a hero’s journey. He becomes wiser in the telling, and we go along because readers, I think, are avid travelers always in search of adventures that come with a turn of a page—and also of real-world personal truths. We open a book and start a journey always longing to reach “the end” and then and there, just maybe, some knowledge and understanding (or at least bits of wisdom).
2.You describe THE MURMUR of BEES as a journey of memories. It’s interesting how to juxtapose trying to forget memories versus trying to remember. Explain.
In The Murmur of Bees, an old man gets up from his Lazy-Boy in present-day Monterrey, Mexico and travels towards nearby Linares (located 120 and 220 miles south of the Texas border) without realizing that his true destination is in his lost childhood memories. He symbolizes all that we purposefully try to forget personally, collectively or officially. And all that can be gained by remembering, even if it’s painful.
3. You explore a different focus on the Mexican Revolution. Explain to us the fight at “Land and Liberty.”
In the south of Mexico only men of European descent owned all the land and hence the original people who lived and worked on it. At first, the Revolution is about the right to vote and no reelection —a quick fix, a change of government— but it evolves into a gruesome fight between brother against brother at the southern call to arms of “Land and Liberty!” After the war, the land, south and north, was taken from its past owners and partitioned in small tracts and distributed among the campesinos by the new government.
Fiction or not, most books about the 1910 Mexican Revolution portray almost the same story: one region —the south—one valid ideology, one gender, one truth, one point of view, one way to be good or evil. The truth about Monterrey and Linares (located 120 and 220 miles south of the Texas border) and all the Northeast region, where the painful labor and social injustices of the south were unknown and alien at the time, is left out all narratives. I believe Mexican history and literature is they are traditionally accepted and told remain incomplete. With The Murmur of Bees, I knew I was shaking things up more than a little, but I wanted to shine a light on the fact that there are other truths, not just that one “single story.” I wanted to add one forgotten but necessary piece to the puzzle of the Mexican story.
4. Bees are an organic metaphor for nature. Explain how they are the magic of the novel.
At first I just wanted someone to save an abandoned newborn from the cold and other dangers, and thought about bees: Aren’t they protective to the point of violence? Aren’t they nature’s precursors of life? They refused to let go of Simonopio and so became a central character—the precursors of life in my fiction as in the real world. The more I studied them, the more otherworldly they seemed; the more magical even in real life. Talk about super powers! Whatever magic there is in this novel, it comes from the bees and the triangle of creation they form with Simonopio and Nana Reja. They are the source of magic in the novel. They are a metaphor for the magic of nature itself. Of life. It wasn’t planned, it happened. And I let it, wishing to discover where it would take them, me, you, us.
5. Tell us what you consider magical realism.
Wishful imagination set in motion to better understand the incomprehensible and beautify the ugliness that can be found in real life.
6. You like to write surrounded by “joyous chaos.” Explain.
Before becoming a novelist, I was wife and mother of three. A PTA/soccer/football/dance/theatre mom with all that that entails. That means I learned to concentrate over and around anyone, anything and everything to write. My home office has a portal but no door: everyone—including my two dogs and a cat—is welcome to come and go. Interruptions are common but they don’t paralyze me. I simply pick up where I left off. I don’t lose the thread of my story, and I don’t lose connection with my people. Family is chaos, but also a source of joy and I wouldn’t trade that for all the quiet in the world.
7. This is your first novel translated into English. What can English speaking/reading audiences expect next.
I didn’t plan it, but all my novels tend to be a rescue effort of lost, ignored and forgotten stories or characters, so whichever novel is next to be translated into English, Peregrinos or Huracán, a reader can expect to find a deep, exciting, but always different take on the traditional points of view.
Sofía Segovia was born in Monterrey, Mexico. She studied communications at Universidad de Monterrey, thinking mistakenly that she would be a journalist. But fiction is her first love. A creative writing teacher, she has also been a ghostwriter and communications director for local political campaigns and has written several plays for local theater. Her novels include Noche de huracán (Night of the Hurricane), El murmullo de las abejas (The Murmur of Bees)—which was called the literary discovery of the year by Penguin Random House and named Novel of the Year by iTunes—and Huracán. Sofía likes to travel the world, but she loves coming home to her husband, three children, two dogs, and cat. She writes her best surrounded and inspired by their joyous chaos.
Thanks to Sophia’s lovely publicist, Megan, we have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us what you think about “mystical realism.” Have you read any mystical realism? We’ll announce winner soon. Good luck.
GIVEAWAY: USA only please.