I haven’t read anything from Monsivais but he was an important writer, one whose work has been little appreciated in the English speaking world. His book on Mexico City sounds fascinating. La Plaza has an excellent appreciation on his like and work in English and El Pais has a lengthy piece in Spanish.
The writer was not well-known outside Mexico. Translation of his work is very limited. Unlike contemporaries such as Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes, Monsivais did not strive to address great universal themes but instead concerned himself with the politics and peculiarities of life in Mexico. And specifically, in the urban carnival that is modern Mexico City.
His first book “Dias de guardar” (“Days to Remember,” 1970) chronicles the tumult and tragedy of the 1968 student movement, which culminated with the massacre at Tlatelolco. In “Amor perdido” (“Love Lost,” 1977) Monsivais writes eloquently on the politicians, artists and movie stars of the moment. In “Los rituales de caos” (“Rituals of Chaos,” 1995) Monsivais weaves a kaleidoscopic look at a Mexico City brimming with life under the duress of pollution, crime and overcrowding.
“In the visual terrain,” the book’s opening line says, “Mexico City is, above all, the too-many-people.”
He also wrote numerous biographies, including volumes on artist Frida Kahlo, singer Pedro Infante and Salvador Novo, an eccentric early 20th century bohemian who is considered Monsivais’ primary predecessor. He published prolifically even late into his life, producing a new set of essays on Mexico City in 2009, “Apocalipstick.”
A dedicated lover of Mexican cinema and popular culture, Monsivais offered to the general public his collection of thousands of photographs, prints and other items with the formation of the Museo del Estanquillo in downtown Mexico City.