Monday, September 28, 2009

Two Reviews of Dance With Snakes

We've recently come upon two early reviews of the fourth title in our Biblioasis International Translation Series, Horacio Castellanos Moya's Dance with Snakes. Damian Kelleher writes early on in his review:

Dance With Snakes, an equally slim novel written eight years prior to Senselessness, but published in English in 2009 by Biblioasis in Canada for its Biblioasis International Translation Series, offers both a further unnerving glimpse into this controversial author's mind, and a sense of where he has come from as an author, what territory he has uncovered as a writer. Dance With Snakes shares the comedy and violence of Senselessness, but it has a wholly original aspect of its own, a dark and disturbing side that outright rejects the possibility that the outsider in society can ever truly be understood by the common man.


It is indicative of the sad state of foreign translations that such an intriguing and – terrible word, but here it is justified – original writer had published eleven works before being translated into English, but both New Directions Publishing and Biblioasis should be commended on their courage. Moya is not an easy author, and his novels eschew – at least both that have been published in English – both easy answers, and indeed often an answer at all. Obsession, darkness, the fringe of the fringe of society: these are Moya's stomping grounds. Eduard Sosa is sympathetic while being almost totally alien, he is an enigma both to the reader, the other characters, and himself, but his answer, it seems, is this: there is no answer. Lee Paula Springer's translation handles admirably the shift in tense and perspective, while retaining an overall feel of the novel that remains coherent throughout the most bizarre of happenings.

Dance With Snakes is harrowing and violent, a deliberate and relentless effort to shock the reader. And, you will be shocked. There is something in here for everyone, to the extent that all boundaries are crossed and morals broken into insignificant pieces. Yet it is the ease with which Moya shows this happening that is the novel's greatest strength. We live in societies where we operate under the tacit assumption that most everyone will behave in a mostly orderly, ordinary, and regular manner. When a person shifts too far outside what we expect they are ostracised – witness the antics of teenagers as they jostle for attention and express their identities in an increasingly outrageous manner – and everyone knows someone who “isn't quite right”. Moya turns this concept into a novel, creating a mostly ordinary fellow who forces himself to become extraordinary simply to see what it is like, and succeeds so tremendously because people simply do not and cannot accept that which is so wholly different to their concept of normality.

For Damian's full review go here.

Over at Ron Slate's website, the poet and reviewer comments as favorably on Moya's novel:

Now, Biblioasis has brought out Paula Springer’s taut translation of Dance With Snakes (Baile Con Serpientes, 1996), Moya’s second novel of four parts. Dance With Snakes is a plot-driven story with twists and misunderstandings among its characters. ... Moya has cultivated a unique talent for giving senselessness a screwy depth – and the style and shape of his fictions, often compared to that of Roberto BolaƱo, are truly his own. Only Moya could come up with a scene where Sosa and his ladies, spiked on cocaine and a surprising aphrodisiac, have terrific sex. Such is the dance with snakes.

Elsewhere on the internet, Scott Esposito over at Conversational Reading points to an essay -- only available in Spanish -- Moya has recently published on the American creation of the Bolano mythology:

Basically, in order to sell books marketers invented the Bolano myth, which Moya is taking as an act of U.S. cultural imperialism on Latin America. Throughout the rest of the piece, Moya goes on to argue that marketers and journalists created an image of Bolano to fit preconceived U.S. stereotypes of what a Latin American is--and especially what a Latin American author is.

Moya concludes that the Bolano created by American marketers and journalists fits in with a sterotype popularized in recent movies and books about Che...

We expect we'll start to see a lot more coverage of this novel in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. Better yet: pick up a copy, as they should be on shelves across North America any day now.

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