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.
About the Author
Horacio Castellanos Moya was born 1957 in Honduras. He has lived in San Salvador, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico (where he spent ten years as a journalist, editor, and political analyst), Spain, and Germany. In 1988 he won the National Novel Prize from Central American University for his first novel. His work has been published and translated in England, Germany, El Salvador and Costa Rica. He has published ten novels and is now living in exile as part of the City of Asylum project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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.
I recommend Horacio Castellanos Moya’s fantastic Senselessness, in which a writer takes on the dangerous job of editing a report on military atrocities in an unnamed country. Both a descent into hell and a book about how one becomes human.
— Junot Diaz
Its success hinges on the acerbically comic, darkly spitting voice of the narrator.
— Aaron Shulman
Like Kafka on amphetamines.
— Joscha Hoffman
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
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