The she devil in the mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya

The she devil in the mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya

Salvadorian fiction

Translator Katherine Silver

Source – personnel copy

I read a couple of years ago Senselessness by Moya .He is one of the hidden gems of south american writing able to open the lid on all that is brutal in latin america .I feel he is best summed up by his friend Roberto Bolano in this quote from the cover .

The only writer of my generation who knows how to narrate the horror ,the secret Vietnam that Latin America was for a long time .

He has spent a long time away from Salvador ,first he went Mexico where he was a newspaper editor ,then Spain and germany he did briefly return to Salvador in the early nineties but currently lives in Mexico .

Weill the she devil in the mirror ,could be called a detective novel ,but it is a detective novel in the latin american vein IE not really a straight forward detective novel , a crime as happened we see it solved through some one but not the detective .The crime a woman has been killed her name is Olga Maria ,she owns a boutiquein the posh part of town and is in her late twenties .The person telling the story is her best friend Laura Rivera .We get the story told in one long monologue .This is a different vision to most Latin american novels as these are the upper class. We also meet the detective Deputy chief Handal .We follow Laura as she sees her friend’s life taken apart to find out what happened .

They let me know right away :Sergio ,Olga Maria’s brother called my house and said something terrible had happened ,Olga Maria had been “mortally wounded “during an attempt robbery .That’s what he said “mortally wounded” .I couldn’t believe it – I’d been with her just half hour earlier .

Laura learns her friend is dead .

The main thing we see through Laura’s monologue is what secrets do ,the is a feeling that the husband was wrapped up in something very suspect to do with money .As we she her try to find out among the people they knew in the upper reaches of Salvadoran society .Which may to be blame for the death of Olga Maria .Also what her husband was up to as the past starts to unfold his part in this maybe more .

This cappuccino is delicious ,Isn’t it ? you can tell it’s a real cappuccino ;in most places they just whip up the milk a little and pour it into any old coffee and call it a cappuccino ;what a fiasco .

Laura is a very lady like lady .

That quote shows how the monologue does sometimes get sidetracked by Laura as she tells us about the world around her and like in this example where to get the perfect coffee .We also maybe wonder at times how close Laura was to Olga and how reliable is what we seeing through her eyes is .So the journey isn’t straight forward to who killed Olga Maria but it is an interesting and eye-opening one .Also with a twist in a tail as Laura and Handal find out the truth .

Moyahas pulled a gem here ,Monologues are hard to write ,with seeming stayed or contrived .I read Trevor’s review last year he compared it with Hamid’s reluctant fundamentalist ,I agree with his view that this works better than the Hamid did ,Moya tends to turn the screw of the case being solved a little smoother than Hamid did .But I also think he may have used Camus.He also used monologue in his last novel” the fall “I do wonder if that book is maybe nearer Moya’s vision in this book as like Camus this book sometimes drifts into the dark places humans can make for them selves .

Have you read Moya ?

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. pburt
    Jul 22, 2012 @ 20:57:29

    Sounds interesting – I haven’t read anything by this author before.


  2. Anbolyn Potter (@anbolynp)
    Jul 23, 2012 @ 23:58:59

    I’m intrigued by the monologue style and by the plot. I like that it is narrated by a woman and I love reading about the upper classes of any society. Sounds like a great read!


  3. amanda
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 01:23:53

    Oh that does sound good. I read and enjoyed The Reluctant Fundamentalist a few years back, so I think perhaps I might like this one too.


  4. parrish
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 13:01:44

    Based on the cover, I would have walked on by, but the idea of the monologue gives it a greater appeal.


  5. Geosi
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 09:07:56

    This is one I would love to lay my hands on. Cheers, stu.


  6. bythefirelight
    Aug 19, 2012 @ 16:16:41

    I’ve read Tyrant Memory and have two of his books on my shelf waiting to be read. This book and Senselessness have always been high on my list. Since I love the Thomas Bernhard I’ve always wanted to read his more Bernhard influenced works. I recommend Tyrant Memory. It is lighter than some of his works but still gets at the same violence ad corruption that he often rights about.


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July 2012


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