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.
The first of exiled Honduran novelist Moya's eight fictions to be translated in the U.S., this crushing satire has at its center a feisty young unnamed writer in penurious political exile from an unnamed Latin American country. It opens as he explains the daunting and dangerous freelance job he has taken in an also-unnamed neighboring state: to edit a 1,100-page report prepared for the country's Catholic archdiocese that details the current military regime's torture and murder of thousands of indigenous villagers. The writer despises the Church, but is moved and agitated by the disturbing testimonies of the survivors, at once unspeakable in their horror and unforgettable in their phrasing: the more they killed, the higher they rose up. More or less one long rant, the book's paragraphs go on for pages as the writer gives way to paranoia, and to a sexual longing that his loneliness and powerlessness make nearly unbearable, and that he expresses profanely. It's Moya's genius to make this difficult character seem a product of the same death and disorder documented in the report, as the survivors' voices merge with his own.