On March 10, 1920, in Pachuca, Mexico, the Compañía de Santa Gertrudis—the largest employer in the region, and a subsidiary of the United States Smelting, Refining and Mining Company—may have committed murder.
The alert was first raised at six in the morning: a fire was tearing through the El Bordo mine. After a brief evacuation, the mouths of the shafts were sealed. Company representatives hastened to assert that “no more than ten” men remained inside the mineshafts, and that all ten were most certainly dead. Yet when the mine was opened six days later, the death toll was not ten, but eighty-seven. And there were seven survivors.
A century later, acclaimed novelist Yuri Herrera has reconstructed a workers’ tragedy at once globally resonant and deeply personal: Pachuca is his hometown. His work is an act of restitution for the victims and their families, bringing his full force of evocation to bear on the injustices that suffocated this horrific event into silence.
Yuri Herrera was born in Actopan, Mexico, in 1970. He received his PhD for Hispanic Language and Literature from UC Berkeley. Signs Preceding the End of the Worldis his English-language debut novel. It was shortlisted for the Rómulo Gallegos Prize and is being published in several languages. His latest novel, The Transmigration of Bodies , is forthcoming in English from And Other Stories in 2016. He is currently teaching at Tulane University in New Orleans.
Lisa Dillman is based in Atlanta, Georgia, where she translates Spanish, Catalan and Latin American writers and teaches at Emory University. Her recent translations include The Frost on His Shoulders by Lorenzo Mediano, Op Oloop by Juan Filloy (longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award), Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman and Rain Over Madrid by Andrés Barba. She is obsessed with words, running, cooking and her dog, Maya.
“A searing, painful, poetic, simple, extraordinary book about a 1920 mine disaster.” —Philippe Sands
"A precise and devastating account that peers into the dark mouths of the El Bordo mine as if they were the gates of hell. In these pages, Yuri Herrera paints a portrait of poverty and neglect and reveals, once again, the way exploitation and abuse lurk at the source of all violence." —Alia Trabucco Zerán, author of The Remainder
"A Silent Fury is a narrative rebellion against the archive of atrocity. Herrera subverts the archive, turns it against itself, upends its silencing mission and reveals within it the traces of corporate and governmental abuse, disregard and murder."—John Gibler, author of I Couldn’t Even Imagine That They Would Kill Us
“Like Life of a Klansman, Herrera’s book is a microhistory inspired by an absence in the archives. But where Ball enriches the record with context and speculation, Herrera conducts a crisp, matter-of-fact investigation. In quietly seething prose—ably translated by Lisa Dillman—he parses the evasive accounts of contemporary journalists, judges, mine administrators, and civil authorities, noting the implications of each elision and discrepancy. By the end, the “accident” looks more like homicide, a crime quickly covered up by local officials and company bureaucrats who barely saw their workers as human . . . The book is a gripping demonstration of how much can be unearthed from the omissions of official accounts.” —Julian Lucas, Harper's Magazine
"By bringing moral exactitude to a story long silenced for American profit, A Silent Fury joins that most vital of canons, the literatures of witness. Reading against the grain of official documents, defining what is there by what is not, Herrera bears witness to a crime that preceded his birth by 50 years." -Kristen Millares Young, Washington Post
“Herrera knows how to plot an intense plot and handle an original style, as capable of revealing a miserable and anguished social reality as well as elevating with poetry the humble and everyday life in order to reach symbolic proportions.” —Arturo García Ramos, ABC
“What Yuri Herrera does is Literature, beyond genres or labels. He amply proves it again now, after five years of silence, with a fascinating story that reads like a novel.” —Matías Néspolo, El Mundo
“With his characteristic sharp prose and exciting rhythm, Herrera is one of the most remarkable writers of Latin America. The El Bordo Mine Fire is an impeccable exercise of journalism.” —Jaime G. Mora, ABC Cultural
Booksellers on A Silent Fury
“A plaque. A press release. A mislabeled photograph. Like a paleontologist drawing a beast from a jaw bone, Herrera tells a story of greed, imperialism, and complicity from a few fragments of information. The El Bordo Mine Fire is just one almost forgotten tragedy but, like Rukeyser's Book of the Dead, the bright, poetic light Herrera shines on it with A Silent Fury, casting a shadow on our biggest questions."—Josh Cook, Porter Square Books
“Yuri Herrera's slim and devastating A Silent Fury documents the mining tragedy in Pachuca in 1920 and the government and mining company's attempts to cover up the deaths. There is no more relevant time to read about workers' fights for safety and justice in their workplace."— Tom Flynn, Pilsen Community Books
“Yuri Herrera explores the history of century-old mine disaster in a small Mexican town. Due to the owner’s influence, the historical record is dubious. Herrera’s investigation raises important questions about how the callousness of the powerful can ensure that a callous history is all that survives them. "—Keith Mosman, Powell's Books
“Silence pervades this short book; that of the historical record; that of the the U.S. corporation that owned the mine; that of the survivors; and that of the dead. Herrera is haunted by the silence of the El Bordo mine fire,100 years after 87 miners died, and seeks to record the whispers of ghosts. In this, he is only partly successful, but by attempting to give voice to the silenced, hope is given breath."—Chapter Books
“Herrera gives voice to the story untold, to clarifying, devastating effect."—Molly Moore, Book People
“A Silent Fury is an astonishing piece of journalism. My favorite book from Herrera yet."—Matt Keliher, Subtext
“An astonishing combination of history, cultural anthropology, and journalism that sheds light on a previously forgotten mining disaster . . . and a good example of why we need more translated nonfiction."—Lesley Rains, City of Asylum Bookstore