David Toscana

Mexico

Writer

Guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme 2003–2004

David Toscana DAAD


A small town right in the middle of the Mexican desert. It has a library, but nobody's interested in its books. The only reader is the librarian himself who sees the world solely through the glasses of literature. When a girl is found dead, he takes the parts of the novels and adds them to the puzzle of a detective story and so unerringly leads the police directly to the murderer. David Toscana's novel El último lector (The last reader) was written during his one-year residence in Berlin.

When writing I always have direct experience of life in mind.
David Toscana

Just like the character in his novel, Toscana spent this time understanding part of the world via the media, and especially through books. "I spent most of the time at home, reading and writing," reports Toscana. He would have liked to have learnt even more about the city and its wealth of cultural life. "But the best thing about such a scholarship really is that you don't have to go out and earn money elsewhere, but can concentrate on your literary work." He also enjoyed the readings. "Berlin is a good place for writers, because there are many and attentive readers and listeners, even if you spend more than an hour reading out loud to them," says the author.

The interplay between real life and fiction is a dominant topic in the stories and novels by Toscana, who succeeded in entering the Mexican bestseller lists in 1995 with his book Estación Tula (Tula Station). As a result, he also became known in Europe and the United States too. His characters' actions are neither logical nor sensible, and their life seems to take place solely in the imagination. Nevertheless, there are many levels of exchange between life and fiction. "When writing I always have direct experience of life in mind," emphasises the engineering graduate. Toscana describes his story-telling technique as "realismo desquiciado" (unrestrained realism), which breaks free from the magic realism. During the 1990s, Toscana was one of a group of "young wild" writers in Mexico who were united by the conviction that no magic was needed to explain the world.

Today the writer lives and works in Monterrey and Warsaw. In La ciudad que el diablo se llevó (2012), Toscana takes an ironic tone to tell the story of four friends in the Polish capital in 1945 who attempt to make ends meet by selling stolen goods.