“The Obituarist”

The following is from Yuri Herrera's Ten Planets . Born in Actopan, Mexico, Herrera is the of three novels, including Signs Preceding the End of the World, which was one of the Guardian's “100 Best Books of the 21st Century” and won the Best Translated Book Award. He teaches at Tulane University in New Orleans. On the way to the scene of death, the obituarist groused fucking invisibility: Fucking invisibility; as if I didn't know that this empty street, just like every empty street in every other city, is teeming with people. The only ones who could be seen were the ones whose jobs required public visibility: delivery people, plumbers, painters, etceteras. They got badges, and when they put them on, became what they had to be and only what they had to be: delivery person, plumber, painter, etcetera, each covered by a neon silhouette. The rest wandered about unseen, protected by a buffer that blocked images, sounds, odors, keeping their bodies at a distance. Which meant that, walking down a deserted street, you'd bump into soft lumps that knocked you gently from side to side. Only in the heaviest congestion could people's contours be seen and thus avoided, but there was never any need to see faces or expressions, feel bones or fat. Ever. The buffer served as a laissez-passer, allowing travel, and owners could take them off only indoors. Yeah, big deal, the obituarist muttered, as he did each day: He could still sense them […]

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