The English Post

Hispanic-American literature is back: Sofía Segovia’s The murmur of Bees

Written by Veronica Lavenia

The Spanish-American fiction, which gave pages of the highest level to world literature, to the so-called general public, owes its success mainly to the charismatic figure of Gabriel García Márquez, founder of that magical realism from which then, more or less clumsily, many other writers from the Latin American continent have drawn on, Mario Vargas Llosa, the intellectual, the “committed” writer par excellence, Nobel Prize in 2010  and Isabel Allende.

In the face of such unattainable talents, in the 2000s, there was no figure who could take the scepter of international publishing successes in hand. At least until 2015, when the Mexican writer Sofía Segovia becomes a literary case in her country first and, later, throughout the Latin American continent with the novel El murmullo de las abejas. Translated in the United States under the title The Murmur of bees (2019, Amazon crossing), the novel was then translated into various languages (In Italy, is published by Rizzoli), climbing the sales charts.

The murmur of bees is the novel that gives new life blood to a literature, the Hispano-American one, which for a long time awaited heirs capable of continuing the path traced by the aforementioned fathers, expressing, and this is what counts, your personality.

Sofía Segovia has awakened in the collective memory the history and landscapes of a nation, Mexico, which has given some of the most beautiful pages of the Spanish-American and world fiction more generally (from Juan Rulfo to Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz).

Linares (Northern Mexico) is the Macondo of this novel which recalls, in some parts, some pages of the best magical realism of García Márquez.

The story opens with the “Nana Reja”, the nurse of the Morales family, the protagonist who leaves the rocking chair in which she has rested since time immemorial to get lost in the local mountains.

Sure of finding her dead, Reja instead introduces herself to the family with a mysterious child in her arms while, in the other arm, she holds a honeycomb. Faced with Nana Reja’s insistence, the Morales decide to adopt the child. Covered with a cloak of bees that will accompany him throughout his life, Simonopio will change the existence of the Morales family and the whole region. An existence of changes and struggles that will take place within an important historical framework such as the great wars, the Spanish influence and, above all, the Mexican Revolution.

The whisper of bees has the lavender smell of always perfumed linen; some white soap, oranges and honey. A love story, the saga of a family that fights for life, for the land as often happens in complex realities like the Hispano-American one.

Simonopio grows up in the love of a family that does not know who his parents were and surrounded by bees who, instead of stinging him, protect him. The country speaks of this unfortunate child, with a hare lip that looks like a “Cave” and does not allow him to speak correctly. A child who, precisely for this reason, also arouses fear among the inhabitants of Linares who label him as the “son of the devil” or some witches of the area. Far from being superstitious, Francisco Morales, on the contrary, pays no attention to popular chatter and raises him as if he were one of the family.

Simonopio, for his part, grows more attracted by Nature than by family rules. Thanks to his bees he learns and explores the mountains and his excursions last even days. Simonopio also has a strong inner sensitivity that leads him to intuit the future, to know the secrets of others to predict events, such as, for example, the Mexican agricultural revolution which led to the replacement of corn and sugar cane plantations for most productive fruit trees.

From a technical-narrative point of view, the story is told with alternating points of view, between the first and third person. Segovia demonstrates that she has deepened the historical themes dealt with in the novel, with a detailed description regarding the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish flu epidemic.

Very influential writer in Mexico, in The Murmur of Bees Segovia herself confirmed her desire to write about the Mexican Revolution in an alternative way, focusing on the clear social and economic distinction between the North and South of the country. Segovia has succeeded in the goal, which she herself declared, of denouncing how Mexican literature has excluded the reality of Northern Mexico. The book explores some ideological and social characteristics of the North, denouncing how drug trafficking is not the only problem in Mexico but that writers mainly address this theme, perhaps also for ideological and editorial convenience.

Segovia invites the inhabitants of Northern Mexico to become protagonists of their story before “others tell the story for you”.

Furthermore, due to its geographical proximity, Segovia is very active in promoting Mexican literature in the United States, in order to raise awareness of other aspects of a nation, known, for the most part, for important social problems that codify Mexicans only as criminals.

A career that began in the world of journalism which she then left because she did not want to lose her life like many of her Mexican colleagues, journalistic influences are present in the novel through the research processes that led her to consult historical archives of the cities, to listen to memories of those who lived that story, which she then fictionalized, on their own skin.

Usually, behind the so-called “literary phenomena”, there are only mere commercial logic. Take a South American author, capable of creating a story that is even a vague reference to the masterpieces of Márquez, or to the best sellers of Isabel Allende, and with a hype success is ready. Often, no trace remains of such authors. In this case, we are faced with a true narrative talent, skilled in structuring a novel of almost five hundred pages with mastery and mastery of narrative techniques.

The murmur of bees is much more than an international literary case. If the author confirms the premises also in the next book (Tears of Ambers, Amazon Crossing), out in 2021, we will have the certainty of a skillful talent in writing new pages of Hispano-American fiction that will be remembered over time.


About the author

Veronica Lavenia

PhD (former University academic). Italian based (food) writer, (food) communicator and magazine contributor. Authors of six books (five cookbooks), some of her works have appeared and appears in the most popular International food magazine, as “Gluten-free Heaven”; "Vegetarian Living"; "Veggie Magazine"; "Lifestyle FOOD"; "Australian Good Food & Travel Guide; "Chickpea";" TML" (The Mediterranean lifestyle), among others.