The New Yorker: “Monstro” by Junot Diaz

June 4 & 11, 2012: “Monstro” by Junot Díaz

Quite a story. The voice seems typical for Díaz—sort of a post-apocalyptic Yunior. But in this story, Yunior, a student at Brown, heads down to the D.R. for the summer while his mother is getting treatment there for some illness that would be too expensive in the U.S. While he’s there, he amuses himself by hanging out with Alex, a rich friend from Brown.

But the story is retrospective, and so we know from the beginning that something terrible has happened and that the narrator has survived. The story unfolds: an infection has appeared among Haitians. It’s horrible and it gets worse. Victims (for some reason spelled “victims”) are isolated into camps, and anyone who is taken from the camps is drawn back. And then the infected people go on a rampage, killing everyone in their path. (This is already looking like a Zombie Apocalypse, but the word “zombie” isn’t used.) Meanwhile, the narrator is hot for Mysty, a friend of Alex’s, a girl beyond his reach. Alex wants to go take pictures of whatever it is that’s happening. The narrator and Mysty tell him he’s nuts. But then, the U.S. government reacts in a big way, with consequences that extend beyond Haiti . . .

Maybe this is just a science fiction story, or maybe Díaz is saying something about the United States. In the story, the infection is mostly ignored until it’s too late. And then the action that’s taken is military, and may have created more problems than it solved. Not exactly a difficult conclusion to reach.

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  1. Victims is for some reason spelled “Viktims.” It is somewhat reminiscent of the slavification of the language in “A Clockwork Orange.”

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