Texas: The Great Theft


By Carmen Boullosa
Translated from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee

1859: Matasánchez and Bruneville. Two cities divided by the Río Bravo – or the Rio Grande, depending on which side you’re on – filled with a volatile mix of characters… tensions are running high, and it all boils over one hot summer day…

Published: December 2, 2014

Paperback: 9781941920008
Ebook: 9781941920015



Loosely based on the little-known 1859 Mexican invasion of the United States, Carmen Boullosa’s newest novel Texas: The Great Theft is a richly imagined evocation of the volatile Tex-Mex borderland, wrested from Mexico in 1848. Described by Roberto Bolaño as “Mexico’s greatest woman writer,” Boullosa views the border history through distinctly Mexican eyes, and her sympathetic portrayal of each of her wildly diverse characters—Mexican ranchers and Texas Rangers, Comanches and cowboys, German socialists and runaway slaves, Southern belles and dance hall girls—makes her storytelling tremendously powerful and absorbing. With today’s Mexican-American frontier such a front-burner concern, this novel that brilliantly illuminates its historical landscape is especially welcome. Texas is Boullosa’s fourth novel to appear in English, her previous novels were published by Grove Press.

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Eleven years have passed since the town of Bruneville was founded on the banks of the Rio Bravo, just a few miles up-river from the Gulf. It was named after Ciudad Castaño, the legendary shining city to the northwest, which was razed by the Apaches. In appropriating the name, Stealman aimed to trade on the sterling quality of the original.

At its founding, the following were present (without a shadow of a doubt):

1) Stealman, the lawyer
2) Kenedy, who owned the cotton plantation
3) Judge Gold (back then he was plain Gold, he still hadn’t earned the nickname Judge)
4) Minister Fear, his first wife, and their daughter Esther (may the latter two rest in peace)
5) A pioneer named King.

King had a royal name, though when he’d arrived in Mexico he hadn’t a penny, didn’t own even a snake. But he was a master of chicanery. When some locals lent him low-grade land to use for seven years, it took him only a few months to emerge as the legitimate owner of immense tracts, on which it seemed to rain cattle from the clouds, as if they were a gift from god. But there was nothing remotely miraculous about the way King made his fortune. He was as good a trickster as any magician with a false-bottomed top hat. If King had been Catholic (as he claimed to be in the contract he signed with the Mexicans), the archdiocese would have been able to build a cathedral with the fortune he’d have to have given them as penance for his sins.

In 1848 King wasn’t the only one who went looking for a fortune, convinced that “Americans” had the right to take what belonged to the North Mexicans by whatever means necessary, fair or foul.


Nominated for the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award

Global Literature in Libraries Initiative Pick 2016

Shortlisted for the 2015 PEN Translation Award

Winner of the 2014 Typographical Era Translation Award

Included as one of World Literature Today’s 75 Notable Translations of 2014


“Mexico’s greatest woman writer.”— Roberto Bolaño

“A luminous writer . . . Boullosa is a masterful spinner of the fantastic”— Miami Herald

“A lucid translation from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee. . . . [Boullosa’s] tale, loosely based on the Mexican invasion of the US known as the ‘Cortina troubles’, evok[es] a history that couldn’t be more relevant to today’s immigration battles in the US.” — Jane Ciabattari, BBC

“Historical fiction at its very best, avoiding all semblance of caricature or appeals to stereotype. The classic Western.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“…a cross between W.G. Sebald and Gabriel García Márquez.” – El País

“Carmen Boullosa’s latest novel, Texas: The Great Theft, is evidence that our ideas about postmodern cowpoke tales have been woefully premature. . . . What is outstanding in Boullosa’s work is the deep sympathy expressed for every human encountered.” — Roberto Ontiveros, Dallas Morning News

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