Surrealist Associations and Mexico’s Precariat in Roberto Wong’s París D.F.
My article provides a reading of an unstudied novel by Robert Wong, París D.F. (2015). The protagonist of Wong’s novel, Arturo, is an aspiring poet who attempts to come to grips with an unfulfilling job and an insipid love life after being traumatized by a close confrontation with workplace violence. Thereafter, Arturo begins an existential journey across time and space in hopes of mending his disquieted consciousness. Arturo reevaluates the grim conditions and chance encounters that characterize Mexico City; Wong’s narrative mines liberally from Surrealism.
I examine the novel in terms of the continued significance of Surrealism in twenty-first century Mexico. What does Wong’s activation of the artistic movement suggest about contemporary literary production? How does Wong’s brand of Surrealism respond to contemporary Latin American and, especially, Mexican socioeconomic realities? What does París D.F. suggest in terms of Surrealism’s purchase in an era characterized by the precariat—a class which confronts the similarly unstable employment conditions of the proletariat—but which lacks the proletariat’s occupational identity?
To respond to these inquiries, I explore París D.F.’s engagement with two of Surrealism’s foremost concepts: André Breton’s notion of objective chance and George Bataille’s idea of sacrificial eroticism. Ultimately, I read the novel as arguing for Mexico’s intimate relationship with Surrealism, and claim that Wong’s novel underscores Surrealism’s continuing political relevance. I thus build upon scholarship that has situated Surrealism—with its emphasis on chance, fantastical associations of places and names, and an ‘end of history’ hopelessness—as a precursor to postmodernism.