AUTHOR: Horacio Castellanos Moya
GENRE: Fiction (Novel)
READER’S NAME: Adan Griego
DATE: June 27th, 2013
For his latest novel, El sueñodel retorno, Horacio Castellanos Moya has drawn from his own experience of exile to weave the story of a journalist in Mexico who wants to return to his native El Salvador to "make a difference." The author has crafted a narrative that takes the reader through multiple events and characters. Some have appeared in his previous works of fiction, but the current text can stand as its own work.
From the opening paragraph, exile is a dominant theme: Erasmo Aragon, the main protagonist, discovers that his doctor has returned to Catalonia. Another exiled doctor (from El Salvador) will take center stage in Aragon's last weeks in Mexico.
The protagonist's marriage is falling apart and Aragon is experiencing physical pain (real or imagined?). The new doctor suggests hypnosis as a remedy. This most unusual mode of medical treatment will uncover a series of events in the protagonist's childhood: the dream of returning, not only to a native country, but to a host of violent memories. If only returning were as simple as purchasing a one-way ticket!
Castellanos Moya has skillfully created a story where the violent history of El Salvador is present throughout the novel, and by extension, that of the rest of Central America in the 1980s. It may not be shocking, but that violence is present: from what hypnosis has revealed about the main character and the clandestine activities of other exiles, to the tragic events that reappear from his previous novels. This is not a simple task and the author succeeds in creating an engaging narrative that avoids a preachy style.
Castellanos Moya is familiar to English speaking audiences from previous translations: Senselessnes (2006),The She Devil in the Mirror (2009), and Tyrant Memory (2011). All have received a critical reception. The current Spanish edition has been equally received and an English translation will most certainly follow this trend.
The author and this novel already have a built-in audience that goes beyond academic readers. The recent trial of Guatemalan dictator Rios Montt for human rights viloations has brought to the general public's attention issues of violence in the region. This is unfortunate, yet an important reason to consider in stongly endorsing El sueñodelretornofor translation into English.