Sunday, January 18, 2009

Horacio Castellanos Moya's Senselessness

Horacio Castellanos Moya's Senselessness is an unusual book that will get under your skin. The narrator has been hired to do the copy-editing for the Guatemalan report on human rights abuses. The narration itself is like a rant, with very long sentences, almost stream of consciousness. I must admit that most of the time I can't get into that type of novel, but he makes it flow along well.

As he does his work, the stories he edits get to him, and he starts to copy down particular phrases into a notebook. The story opens with one of them: "I am not complete in the mind." The more he works, the more paranoid he becomes, certain that military intelligence is about to murder him. He is not relieved even when occasionally he discovers that his paranoia has no basis, though many times we're not all that sure.

The narrator himself is not all that likable. Initially he was concerned primarily with getting an advance on his salary. He spends much of his time chasing women and drinking (which is stopped temporarily due to antibiotics for an STD), almost as if he is trying to remain disassociated from the pain and suffering he is constantly reading about. He notes down the phrases and is not completely aware of why they haunt him so much. He even started to annoy me a bit, but the end of the novel made me change my mind a bit.

I didn't make the connection when I first started the novel, but as I read I realized it goes hand in hand with Francisco Goldman's The Art of Political Murder, which I reviewed last October. The bishop himself even makes a brief appearance, and is mentioned chillingly in the very last paragraph.

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