Horacio Castellanos Moya's Insensatez (Senselessness)
Don’t miss this novel. Set in an unnamed Central American country (probably Guatemala), Horacio Castellanos Moya’s Insensatez (Senselessness in English) is a short, first person narrative that will make you quake. It is filled with the menace, horror, corruption and danger of the many small “republics” in this hemisphere where “military intelligence” has been a synonym for death, torture and disappearance, and in which the indigenous population has been decimated by decades long “anti-insurgency” campaigns focusing on them.
There is no spoiler here. That would be unfair. The narrator, a foreigner, is hired by the Catholic Church to edit a 1,100 page testimony of the torture of the indigenous population by the military which the Bishop plans to release to the public. The manuscript is filled with the spellbinding, poetic voices of the survivors. The narrator, like the first testimony he reads, “is not complete in the mind.” Is he paranoid? Is he in danger? Is he both?
I read this book in one sitting; it’s that moving.
Roberto Bolano had it right when he wrote of Moya’s work
One of the great virtues of [his work] is that nationalists of all stripes can’t stand it. Its sharp humor, not unlike a Buster Keaton firlm or a time bomb, threatens the fragile stability of impeciles, who, when they read [his books], have an uncontrollable desire to hand the author in the town square. I can’t think of a higher honor for a writer.
Moya, who was born in Honduras in 1957 and moved to El Salvador as a child, is presently living and working and writing in Pittsburgh.
There are two other works available in English translation. Don’t miss them either.