Natasha Wimmer on Horacio Castellanos Moya, Name-Checks Quarterly Conversation

In The Nation.

Graciously, Wimmer sends some kind words toward The Quarterly Conversation:

El asco struck a nerve not just in El Salvador but across Latin America. Photocopies of it were circulated where the printed book wasn't available, and in an interview with Castellanos Moya (published in the online journal The Quarterly Conversation, which does an admirable job of covering literature in translation), Mauro Javier Cardenas notes that everyone in Mexico City seemed to be reading it in the late 1990s. More than ten years after its publication, it is taught in at least one Salvadoran university, but it continues to be reviled in the Salvadoran press.

The essay covers everything by Castellanos Moya currently available in English: Senselessness (read our review), as well as the recently published novels The She-Devil in the Mirror (my essay here) and Dance with Snakes. Notably, toward the end Wimmer also briefly mentions El arma en el hombre, which I believe is being translated at the moment:

Both Yuca and Laura play cameo roles in another novel, El arma en el hombre (The Human Weapon, 2001), yet to be translated, which is a kind of companion piece to The She-Devil in the Mirror. Besides providing some revelatory information about Yuca's drug connection, it tells the story of RoboCop, the killer for hire who shot Olga María. If Laura is the warped, glossy surface of Salvadoran society, RoboCop is the machinery beneath it. He learned his trade during the civil war, and when it ended he took work wherever he could get it. At first, he tries to maintain some semblance of loyalty to his army comrades, but he soon discovers that there are no sides anymore, just shifting alliances of old-money landowners, politicians and drug lords, among whom there is always someone willing to pay good money to have someone else killed.

El arma en el hombre, like The She-Devil in the Mirror, is a conspiracy theorist's delight, a kind of fairy tale of corruption (including lovely visions of poppy fields). Every murder is a sinkhole that leads down to some crime kingpin, and the network of connections is dizzyingly complex. And yet to invoke conspiracy theory suggests that crime is always some kind of puzzle complete with a solution, no matter how byzantine.

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Ha! That’s incredible. She-devil in the mirror had one of the best first person voices I had read in a long time. For that aspect of the novel alone, it was worth reading. I cannot imagine the discipline it must have taken to write from such a narrow perspective.
I look forward to once again immersing myself in that world, pacing my apartment, reading another hideous monologue aloud to my wife.


The Surrender is Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning his lifelong desire to be a woman.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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