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Oct 8, 2019


Winner PEN Translates Award (UK)

Recovering from an unspecified accident, the narrator of Loop finds herself in waiting rooms of different kinds: airport departure lounges, doctors’ surgeries, and above all at home, awaiting the return of her boyfriend, who has travelled to Spain following the death of his mother. Loop is a love story told from the perspective of a contemporary Penelope who, instead of weaving and unravelling her shroud, writes and erases her thoughts in her ‘ideal’ notebook. At once, funny and thought-provoking, her thoughts range from her stationery preferences to the different scales on which life is lived, while a cast of unlikely characters cross the page, from Proust to a mysterious dwarf, from a dreamy cat to David Bowie singing ‘Wild is the Wind’. Written in an assured, irreverent style, Loop is the journal of an absence, one in which the most minute or whimsical observations open up universes. Combining aphoristic fragments with introspective narrative, and evoking Italo Calvino and Fernando Pessoa in its playfulness and wry humour, this original reflection on relationships, solitude and the purpose of writing offers a glimpse of contemporary life in Mexico City, while asking what it really means to find our place in the world.

Oct 8, 2019

Sobre el autor

Born in Mexico City in 1981, Brenda Lozano is a fiction writer, essayist and editor. She studied literature in Mexico and the United States. She edits the Chicago-based literary journal Make and is on the editorial board of Ugly Duckling Presse. In addition to Loop, she has published Todo o nada (All or Nothing, 2009), which is being adapted for the screen, and a book of short stories, Cómo piensan las piedras (How Stones Think, 2017). In 2015, she was recognised by the Hay Festival and the British Council as one of the leading Mexican authors under 40 years of age, and she was selected by the Hay Festival in 2017 as one of the Bogotá39, a list of the most outstanding new authors from Latin America. Loop is her first book to appear in English.

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Loop - Brenda Lozano



Today a dwarf smiled at me.

As a girl I thought the electric pencil sharpener was what separated me from adult life. Between the blue plastic pencil sharpener and the electric pencil sharpener – in my father’s office or on the teacher’s desk – stretched the distance between childhood and adult life.

At a dinner party when he was twenty-one, Proust was asked some questions. Among them, what his favourite bird was. The swallow, he replied. Proust didn’t invent the questions known as the ‘Proust questionnaire’, but his answers were so good they made the questionnaire famous. Proust responded to the questionnaire on two separate occasions. He was fifteen when he was asked his favourite colour. ‘The beauty is not in the colours, but in their harmony,’ he said.

At fifteen I still thought the electric pencil sharpener separated me from adult life. If I’d been asked my favourite colour I would have said the colour of my blue pencil sharpener, but Proust’s favourite bird is also my favourite bird.

If I could turn into any bird, I’d choose a swallow.

Change. Unlearning yourself is more important than knowing yourself.

Jonás and I did a crossword together this evening. We made a good team. It was a kind of crossword with lots of blank numbered squares. You had to work out which letter of the alphabet corresponded to each number, and then work out the title, the author and the text underneath. He outlined the three-letter words in red, and I outlined the four-letter words in blue. It was a passage from First Love, about the love between the character’s parents. It took the two of us more than an hour to solve it. Crosswords are a good demonstration of how we function as a couple, in this apartment. A model, on a dwarf scale. His maths PhD came in useful for solving the puzzle. My degree in communication helped me remember the author’s surname. From the surname, we were able to work out the rest of the text thanks to Jonás’ usual methodical approach to things. Significant that the word ‘mother’ appeared so many times. Jonás’ mother died a week before we met and this very day, Sunday, would have been her birthday. Every time Jonás read the word ‘mother’ out loud I felt a pang.

Today I saw the dwarf again, the same one who smiled at me in the street a few days ago. This time he was sitting with his back to me, in a little diner. He was checking something on his phone; I think he was reading the news. His feet, the soles of his shoes, weren’t touching the floor, and his knees weren’t bent. Straight, the legs of the dwarf sitting on the plastic chair.

Tonight we listened to different versions of ‘Wild is the Wind’ as we lay in bed. Out of David Bowie and Nina Simone, I’d go for Bowie and Jonás would go for Nina Simone.

I’ve found my combination: a Scribe notebook for a diary and an Ideal notebook for fiction. This is my married couple. Gemini at last become one. Today is a happy day, a day when I came across some dusty, forgotten Scribe and Ideal notebooks in a stationer’s on Calle Alfonso Reyes. They were the last ones. Scribe and Ideal notebooks are very difficult to find, but Alfonso Reyes’ passion for fictions is reflected in his street. I feel like Alfonso Reyes should intersect with Borges. The two writers would spend the whole time joking around between their streets, but what paranormal phenomena would take place in the stationer’s then?

‘The Song of the Notebook’. That’s the title of the poem Alexander Vvedensky wrote in a notebook with a grey cover between 1932 and 1933. The collection of poems is called The Grey Notebook, simply because of the colour of the cover.

A concert of trees and bushes. The wind in the branches: the song of the notebook in its original version. Silence. Listen to that song.

If Jonás turned into a bird I could ask him to let me fly by his side, like in ‘Wild is the Wind’.

I’d like to have dinner with Jonás, but today he won’t be home. ‘I’m having dinner with my dad,’ the message says. I called him. We argued on the phone about something stupid. He’s going to spend the night there. I wish I’d never said anything.

The dwarf on the block. Today he was wearing a three-piece suit and carrying a tiny cane. In the evening we exchanged glances. I felt a lot like the dwarf, on another scale of life and needing to lean on a tiny cane.

The dwarf, yes, is a dwarf. He’s a neighbour. Probably with a voting card. With a love life and a credit history. But then, the dwarf is also an idea. Of someone who lives on another scale, someone who lives among objects that are too large, too heavy or too tall. Someone who lives in a system, a routine, in everyday life. And yet.

Today I went for coffee with my friend Tania. In the Escandón neighbourhood, Calle de la Prosperidad crosses Avenida Progreso. I read the intersections of streets like they’re fortune cookies.

Where am I? In a chair, yes, but it feels like the middle of the ocean. I swim on and get further away. I swim forwards, but I go backwards. The beach seems more distant than before.

This evening Tania, sipping her beer, said casually that according to her cousin from Acapulco, if you don’t want to drown in the sea you have to swim diagonally. Wait for the tug of the waves and swim not forwards but diagonally.

How do you swim diagonally in life?

I long for the morning when I wake up transformed into a swallow. Now I imagine two swallows holding a ribbon in the air. On the ribbon, the words ‘Ideal Notebook’ can clearly be distinguished. The swallow on the left is me, and the swallow on the right is the dwarf on my block.

Two people metamorphosed into animals take on the same proportions. The best time to form a relationship with someone is when they change form.

If a metal band metamorphoses on stage at the Foro Alicia, they’ll end up as a group of foxes dressed in black. If the university orchestra metamorphoses in the Nezahualcóyotl concert hall midway through a performance, they’ll end up as foxes dressed in black. It’s a simple equation: x equals metamorphosis. You need to find x to know which animal you’d be.

One thing I don’t like about felt tips is their felt tips. I write by hand, and I have small writing. You can imagine how annoying it gets.

On Saturday afternoon Jonás and I went to a gallery opening. We saw a woman there who was more excited about the party than the exhibition. The artworks were just a bureaucratic pretext for the fun. I liked that about her. She was there to have a good time, plain and simple. ‘Some people prefer the cracking to the nuts,’ Jonás said, about this woman and her extravagant dance moves. Typical Jonás. Sometimes he takes things more seriously than he should. Needless to say, Jonás doesn’t dance.

On the dancefloor, I heard someone say that the Most Important Artist in Mexico was there. That phrase, it seems, has the same atomic number as uranium. Some people went over to talk to him. Later, the Most Important Artist in Mexico took a young woman by the waist and they danced psychedelic cumbias. I thought he was a good dancer. Every so often, people interrupted his dancing to engage him in conversation. It’s a shame the woman who prefers the cracking to the nuts didn’t dance psychedelic cumbias with the Most Important Artist in Mexico. The dancefloor would have gone up in flames.

The secret of those people going over to interrupt the Most Important Artist in Mexico while he was dancing, now that I think about it, must lie in the very word ‘important’. In this city, we could form a cult around that word.

We left the party at the gallery and went to pick up a few things for dinner. I thought I saw Oscar Wilde in the supermarket. I once saw Fernando Pessoa choosing fruit at the Thursday market.

Today is Sunday. Jonás is at his friend Marcos’ house right now. Here at home, it’s a Sunday for puzzles. What came to nothing first, the corny aunt or the corny poetry she liked to read?

A Sunday for making up pointless sayings.

All texts are grey in the dark.

Stories, like buildings and wars, begin with drafting.

Bookkeeper, keep to your books.

And you know what? A notebook can be a Milky Way of letters.

What does ideal mean? The ideal weight. The ideal height. The ideal house, salary, job. The ideal book. The ideal person. To me, the bell they ring when the rubbish truck is coming is ideal: no accident, no disaster, no catastrophe has the good manners to announce its arrival like that.

I’m swimming diagonally, look. It’s getting late, why aren’t you back from Marcos’ house? I’m not going to ask you the Proust questionnaire; I think the Beckett questionnaire would be better. Come and see.

Right leg or left leg?

Company or solitude?

How would you translate the word lessness into Spanish?

How many times do you suck on a stone before putting it in your pocket?

A dark room, a voice speaks to you. What does it say?

Your loved ones live in dustbins and you have a single chocolate-chip cookie. How do you share it?

A king with a supermarket trolley or a tramp with a cardboard Burger King crown?

What do we talk about when we talk about Godot?

One way of turning into a swallow is by writing: I’m a swallow. But can the written word break the silence like a song?

Oh, music. I like music so much. But not the birds’ kind. I like music I can sing in the kitchen while I’m cooking, or in the street while I’m walking along. I know what song you have in your head, Jonás. Sing it to me. You’re a good singer, come on.

What genre, what kind of music do we like? It’s hard to say, if Ovid is the first punk and Ramones tracks are classics. And they are, aren’t they, now the internet is our Alexandria and we’re all Aristophanes of Byzantium?

Music. It’s so good. If I had to pick ten songs out of all the music I know, I’d pick one by Bob Marley and one by Bach. The two of them would sit together on the same list, with the same panache. The songs that are furthest apart would be like strangers who hit it off right away.

Jonás plays the piano really well. He has beautiful hands, long fingers. He’s no good at working music out by ear. Most of the time, he plays from memory, but when he forgets something he looks over the sheet music on the piano at his parents’ house. His repertoire is what’s contained in those seven or ten notebooks with missing pages: his father’s favourite pieces. Jonás plays Bach’s preludes and fugues wonderfully. If I tried to play Bach on the piano, the part I’d do best would be grunting like Glenn Gould.

The other night, while his sister and I were making quesadillas, Jonás tried to work out ‘Wild is the Wind’ on the piano. It was a disaster.

What do I do? What’s my job? Aside from working in an office, how do I spend my time? I spend my time drawing all sorts of lines. This Sunday I drew a lot of lines like this one:


I drew lines with a blue pencil. Navy-blue lines, about as many as there are ruled on each page. I drew them with my eyes open and with my eyes closed. With my right hand and my left. Now I’m closing my eyes as I write this line. Like letting go of the steering wheel, look how I’m veering off course. Still, you need a notebook if you want to experience all the different kinds of lines a person can draw.

I drew the lines with a blue school pencil. I’ve realised that lines repeated from the top to the bottom of the page look like waves. To quote the sea:







‘The sea is the purest and foulest water: for fish drinkable and life-sustaining; for men undrinkable and deadly’, I read in a book by Simone Weil. In other words, the stairs that go up and the stairs that go down are one and the same.

It’s true,

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