A Rainmaker Translation Grant Winner from the Black Mountain Institute: Senselessness, acclaimed Salvadoran author Horacio Castallanos Moya's astounding debut in English, explores horror with hilarity and electrifying panache.
A boozing, sex-obsessed writer finds himself employed by the Catholic Church (an institution he loathes) to proofread a 1,100 page report on the army's massacre and torture of thousands of indigenous villagers a decade earlier, including the testimonies of the survivors. The writer's job is to tidy it up: he rants, "that was what my work was all about, cleaning up and giving a manicure to the Catholic hands that were piously getting ready to squeeze the balls of the military tiger." Mesmerized by the strange Vallejo-like poetry of the Indians' phrases ("the houses they were sad because no people were inside them"), the increasingly agitated and frightened writer is endangered twice over: by the spell the strangely beautiful heart-rending voices exert over his tenuous sanity, and by real danger—after all, the murderers are the very generals who still run this unnamed Latin American country.
Praise For Senselessness…
— Junot Diaz - New York Magazine
Its success hinges on the acerbically comic, darkly spitting voice of the narrator.
— Aaron Shulman - Rain Taxi
Like Kafka on amphetamines.
— Joscha Hoffman - The Believer
The only writer of my generation who knows how to narrate the horror, the secret Vietnam that Latin America was for a long time.
— Roberto Bolaño, author of 2666 and By Night in Chile
A brilliantly crafted moral fable, as if Kafka had gone to Latin America for his source materials.
— Russell Banks, author of The Reserve
He has put El Salvador on the literary map.
— Natasha Wimmer - The Nation
Like Kafka, Moya keeps an ironic eye trained on the way in which bureaucracies become corollaries of dictatorships….His leaps from absurdity to terror and back again are like something out of The Castle.
— Tommy Wallach - The World (PRI)
New Directions, 9780811217071, 160pp.
Publication Date: May 17, 2008
About the Author
Katherine Silver's award-winning translations include works by María Sonia Cristoff, Daniel Sada, César Aira, Julio Cortázar, Juan Carlos Onetti, and Julio Ramón Ribeyro. The author of Echo Under Story, she does volunteer interpreting for asylum seekers.