There are periods in which the beauty salon is completely empty. This happens when all the guests die in a short span of time and newly. Mario Bellatin, Author, Kurt Hollander, Translator, trans. from the Formerly a stylist in a beauty salon in an unnamed city, the narrator. Beauty Salon. By: Mario Bellatin April 14, A few years ago my interest in aquariums led me to decorate my beauty salon with colored fish. Now that the.

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The most striking thing to me about this book is the voice, which is completely detached from any external reality.

Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin–Some Thoughts | CR

This is of course notable, since the book is narrated by a person who presides over terminally ill people in their final days on Earth. Reading Beauty Salonit takes a little while to get over the implicit assumption that the Terminal as the Beauty Salon is now called is some kind of a medical care facility or even a hospice.

This is where the detached tone becomes interesting. Because the narrator is surrounded by the dying all day, and because he is linked to them by homosexuality and later by being afflicted with the disease itselfone would assume that he would naturally want to empathize with them, or at least he would be drawn in by empathy. In fact it is the opposite: One I take them [the sick] in I make sure to bring them all to the same point in terms of their state of mind.

After a few days of living together I manage to impose the appropriate atmosphere. This is the ideal state in which to work. The voice is very particular, very developed.

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That is all to say, this is a book that does not have much of a plot—a book that does not need much of a plot—and those for whom plot is the sine qua non should look elsewhere. And then there are the fish!

These links beautyy be made as a sort of introductory approach to the relationship between the Terminal and the aquariums, but the full nature of this relationship between the two is very much more complex. He keeps going on about them, yet he remains so detached from the human beings dying all around him.


One begins to besuty that the latter is a self-defense mechanism, since the narrator associates with these people but also makes it clear that he gave up their lifestyle because bsllatin was leading him to ruin.

Bellatin’s Beauty Salon

The sick and dying are merely escorted to the grave, while the fish are cared for in ways particular to their special needs. The narrator needs them for some reason, although this reason—clearly related to the ideal of beauty as the narrator sees it—is hard to define.

saoon Again one is intrigued by the narrator, who can clearly be so methodical and full of care when he wants, but chooses not to exercise this care for his fellow humans. He is notable as the only guest the narrator becomes emotionally invested in, the only one who is given an actual grave after dying the rest of the guests are placed into a mass graveand the only one with whom the narrator has carnal relations which, seemingly, infect the narrator.

At one point the narrator puts an aquarium with black tetras near his bed to cheer him up but then quickly recants:.

From one minute to the next I completely lost interest in him. Almost immediately afterward the disease flared up maro. Strangely enough three fish died at the same time as the boy. While it is true that by that time the fist had lost some of their former splendor, there were still a good number of them left.

Right after he died, I found matio black tetras lying stiff on the bottom of the fish tank.

I tried not to think about anything while I fished them out. Black tetras need a water heater, and I had one plugged in all the time. At that time I still followed the steps necessary to maintain an aquarium. Which is why I consider it more than just a coincidence that the three fish perished on the very night the boy died.


The next day I unplugged the water heater. Two days later I checked to make sure that none of the black tetras had survived in the cold water. Through both flows the mix of beauty, death, and eroticism that is at the heart of this slim work. The book ends with the narrator plotting the final steps he will take before he succumbs to the disease. He will push all the death out of his salon, fill it again with the instruments of beauty, fill the aquariums with beautiful fish.

And then, he reasons, once he dies, a sort of rival terminal care group will take over and do what they consider the work of mercy and what he considers an abhorrent perversion: Beauty Salon is a carefully crafted work that clearly embodies a potent mix of ideas, although shrinks from pinning them down.

Although one might consider the illness a metaphor for AIDS—and thus somewhat dated—it is really much better seen a metaphor for sickness in its many senses, and for what sickness does to humanity. Beauty Salon is, like the fish tanks described within, a small, closed environment, although the paths that can be taken through it are many.

CR beautty dedicated to thoughtful, in-depth criticism without regard to what’s commercially appealing. It takes tens of hours each month to provide this. Please help make this sort of writing sustainable, either with a subscription or a one-time donation.

Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin

You could also purchase one of my acclaimed ebooks. Your email address will not be published. Let us know what you have to bellatim I just ordered Lecciones para una liebre muerta… to get a feel for his writing. He seems extraordinarily interesting to read! Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. All in all, over 25, words of Latin American literary goodness.