NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Economist & The Financial Times
One day a few years ago, 300 migrants were kidnapped between the remote desert towns of Altar, Mexico, and Sasabe, Arizona. A local priest got 120 released, many with broken ankles and other marks of abuse, but the rest vanished. Óscar Martínez, a young writer from El Salvador, was in Altar soon after the abduction, and his account of the migrant disappearances is only one of the harrowing stories he garnered from two years spent traveling up and down the migrant trail from Central America and across the US border. More than a quarter of a million Central Americans make this increasingly dangerous journey each year, and each year as many as 20,000 of them are kidnapped.
Martínez writes in powerful, unforgettable prose about clinging to the tops of freight trains; finding respite, work and hardship in shelters and brothels; and riding shotgun with the border patrol. Illustrated with stunning full-color photographs, The Beast is the first book to shed light on the harsh new reality of the migrant trail in the age of the narcotraficantes.
In a December 28th review, Aaron Shulman, writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, gives Óscar Martínez’s The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail high praise, calling it a “tour de force” and “one of the books I loved most from 2013.”
Lauding Martínez’s account of migrants’ harrowing journey across borders as both a journalistic and literary feat, Shulman says:
The result of such an all-in effort is a painfully reported, lapidarily written, and viscerally affecting narrative. The Beast, like so many great books, lands on you with a revelatory frisson, the arrival of a story we didn’t know we were waiting to hear.
Martínez’s unrelenting drive as a reporter anchors the stories he tells with gritty detail and an immersive knowledge of his subject matter, but it is this combined with his poet’s eye which makes reading The Beast such a vivid, devastating experience. From the “insolent thug walk, that hard, body-teetering limp” of a migrant named Pitbull, to the “trebley beat” of music on a tense bus ride,” to “the calm emptiness of the narco desert,” every person and place in The Beast throbs with texture and realness.
Visit the Los Angeles Review of Books to read the review in full.
From scaling the very highest rooftops to political scandal through the eyes of Alexander Cockburn, we bring you our seasonal highlights for 2013.
THE CITY / URBAN EXPLORATION
Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City
Bradley L. Garrett
"Garrett perceives the city like no one else I know. Seen through his eyes, it is newly porous, full of “vanishing points”, “imperfect joinings” and portals – service hatches, padlocked doorways – that you wouldn't usually notice... The city's accessible space extends far down into the earth (sewers, bunkers, tunnels) and far up into the air (skyscrapers, cranes), with the street level only serving as a median altitude." – Robert Macfarlane, Guardian
"[Combines] erudite references (Montesquieu, Walter Benjamin) with compelling photographs of men in hoodies in strange places." – Rowan Moore, The Observer Architecture Books of the Year