Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Horacio Castellanos Moya: Senselessness

Jed Lipinski reviews Horacio Castellanos Moya's Senselessness.
Senselessness is the eighth novel by Salvadoran writer Horacio Castellanos Moya and, remarkably, the first to appear in English. Moya has been hailed as El Salvador's foremost novelist, and Senselessness, published in Spanish in 2004, took only four years to arrive in the States—not a bad track record, considering that Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives, released here last fall, was first published in 1998.

A chaptered but nearly paragraphless 142 pages, Senselessness reads like a vicious, novella-length rant by the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard—had Bernhard spent his developmental years drinking mescal in a corrupt, oppressively Catholic Latin America and having sex with passionate Spanish women. Bernhard's influence is obvious, like Joyce's influence on Flann O'Brien and J.P. Donleavy, but never burdensome. By filtering Bernhard's addled consciousness through his own, and steeping it in the humidity of a thinly disguised Guatemala, the novel provides a kind of meta-analysis of the neurotic Austrian master—though it stands alone, too, as an innovative and invigoratingly twisted piece of art.
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