Senselessness is the first book I have read by El Salvadorian author Horacio Castellanos Moya, and I think it won’t be the last. Although the book overwhelmed me with both its subject and style, I could not help but admire the author.
Senselessness progresses with a highly flawed narrator who fled from El Salvador to Honduras, and you cannot immediately love him. He is the editor of a 1,100-page book on military atrocities in the country’s past, funded by the Catholic Church in Honduras. The book is a result of the horrors experienced by the indigenous people, tortured by the soldiers. As you can imagine, it is not an easy book to read and edit. As our narrator reads the book, he records the sentences that most affect by him in his notebook. In the meantime, of course, one’s heart is breaking again and again. But I wouldn’t want you to think that the book is just that. It contains a lot more.
Senselessness is not an easy book. The author has developed such a style that you have to read very long sentences that repeat each other. However, this situation adds a very different flavour to the book. I felt as if he stopped to breathe; he would forget or couldn’t continue. It was excellent! However, I have to state that it is not suitable for everyone, both in terms of content and style. Some scenes were harrowing to read. Keep this in mind and try to enjoy his genius.
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.
Horacio Castellanos Moya
Horacio Castellanos Moya is a writer and a journalist from El Salvador. For two decades he worked as the editor of news agencies, magazines and newspapers in Mexico, Guatemala and his own country. He has published eleven novels, five short story collections and two essay collections. His novels have been so translated into eleven languages; six of them (Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in El Salvador, The Dream of My Return, Senselessness, The She-Devil in the Mirror, Dance with Snakes, and Tyrant Memory) are so available in English. Currently, he teaches creative writing and media in the Department of Spanish and so Portuguese at the University of Iowa.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: