Monday, January 11, 2010

Two More Reviews of Dance With Snakes

Two more reviews of Horacio Castellanos Moya's Dance With Snakes were published in the last week. The first, in a piece entitled 'Slapstick Adventure and Sharp Allegory' at the Rover Magazine, enthuses:

Dance With Snakes is a slapstick action adventure and a sharp allegory. Its targets include the paranoia of political regimes, inclined to view any sort of upheaval as part of a destabilization plot. It examines the political imperatives of police investigation, wherein government officials superimpose their own agendas upon the character of crime, dismissing the instincts of experienced investigators in favour of lines of inquiry more supportive of their own stance. The novel deals with the capacity of the media to shift the focus of news or indeed to insert itself into the story in such a way as to influence, alter, or even create events. It touches upon the ease with which a criminal is able to manipulate the media and, through it, the public’s perception of his acts. And it illustrates the ability of communities to convince themselves, or be convinced, of just about anything.

The beauty of this book, as with great works of political and social satire in all languages, is that while its messages are by no means obscure, they are injected almost surreptitiously into the bloodstream of the reader: we may well imagine that these realizations are our own, having been presented them so deftly during the course of a story that is on its surface crazed, exhilarating, grotesque, relentless and hilarious fun.

Meanwhile, in the current issue of RainTaxi, there appears a joint review of Dance with Snakes and The She-Devil in the Mirror:

Dance with Snakes is essentially a thriller, and Moya uses the conventions of the genre to create a terrific amount of suspense and terror. But once we get to what is easily one of the most bizarre and discomforting sex scenes in all of literature, it becomes clear that—as with his later She-Devil in the Mirror—Moya is only constructing a traditional thriller on the surface. As opposed to She-Devil, however, the narration here is very straightforward; we have no reason to doubt the veracity of anyone’s claims despite the fantastic nature of many of them, as when the sociologist describes his interactions with his adopted snakes, which he calls “the ladies”:

The din outside was tremendous. The ladies were in a kind of orgy, biting everything in sight. I had closed the door and window to block out the screaming, but I could still feel the terror of the fleeing crowds beating in my eardrums. In just a few seconds the street had been destroyed. There were dozens of bodies lying twisted on the ground between the vendors’ stalls, as though there’d been a machine gun attack or an earthquake. I thought we shouldn’t call too much attention to ourselves. I opened the car door and yelled for them to come back. They came in excited and out of breath. I started the car while they gossiped like maidens in a tearoom, which was unlike them.

Dance with Snakes is the more “pulse-pounding” of the two novels, for sure, but both offer up incredible characterizations and Moya’s takes on the political situation in Latin America, with plenty of barbs directed at religion and the police. Hopefully we will see more of his fiction translated in the coming years.

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