cover image I, the Supreme-V264

I, the Supreme-V264

Augusto Roa Bastos, Augusto Roa Bastos. Vintage Books USA, $10.95 (433pp) ISBN 978-0-394-75264-8

In a transcendence of imagination over historical actuality, this novel by the Paraguayan writer (an exile for the past 40 years) portrays the life and approaching death of Jose Gaspar Rodriquez de Francia, raised to the condition of Paraguay's ""Supreme Dictator for Life'' in 1814. Power is the ruler's only interest and goal; he has neither family nor friends, only the constant presence of his secretary-confidant Patino. Bastos's relentless investigation of the depths of iniquitythat of both the ``Supreme'' and his antagonistsis an illuminating (and depressing) journey into the night. But the novel's true achievement is one of tone and voice. The language is a triumph almost as much for the translator as for the author: ebulliently resourceful, brilliant in its vitriol and vituperation, rabelaisian in its extravagance. Clotted with footnotes both factual and invented, filled with allusions and erudite references, the novel has eminent satisfactions for the discriminating reader. (April 17)