I the Supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos
Translator – Helen Lane
Augusto Roa Bastos is maybe a forgotten figure these days of latin american fiction and a major figure in the Latin American boom .He learned to read via his uncles extensive library ,fought in the Chaco war and later was a journalist writing at night best known for two books this one and the son of man .This book is a perfect example of latin american dictator literature another example would be Mario Vargas Llosa feast of the goat .
The book is Historic set in from the early 1800’s to the middle of the century .We meet the man who takes control of the landlocked Paraguay ,although this is a novel there was a number of people who ruled Paraguay during the 19th century that he could be ,he ends up being called dr francia he end up with the title the supreme ,el supremo in spanish .This book isn’t the easiest read it is dense with lots of footnotes and a drifting story .on the backof the book it is compared to Tristram Shandy .the story starts simple enough a notice is posted on the cathedral in the town,stating something about the el supremo death and beheading anyway this is false so we start on the line of how this note got there but then this gets sideline somewhat as we find the inner running of the country an ever shifting exercise in control of power from those inside the country and those outside the country .So through this we see the supremo and his ever faithful, servant sectary and man who has to put up with this guys giant ego Policarpo .Thou the setting for the novel is two hundred years ago the actions of the supremo are classic actions of a dictator and can still be seen in todays totalitarian regimes like North Korea the cult of one person is fostered and the people round him have to deal with his every whim .This is told in many forms of literary devices narrative ,reports ,footnotes creating almost a collage effect of writing ,oh and just in case you wondered the are some magic realist touches in the form of a dog that talks, being one. But what would you expect this did come out of a book at the height of latin american boom .I was so pleased when I found a second-hand copy of this book as I have really been wanting to read it since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. The book is out of print in the uk at moment which seems shame but second-hand copies are very cheap round the web if you look hard enough .
Have you read this ?
Any other Latin American books that are overlook you think I should try ?