cover image Tyrant Memory

Tyrant Memory

Horacio Castellanos Moya, trans. from the Spanish by Katherine Silver. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (330p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1917-4

Moya's absorbing new novel is set in early 1944 El Salvador after a coup fails to depose real life pro-Nazi dictator Maximiliano Hern%C3%A1ndez Martinez. Members of Moya's fictional Aragon family play unexpected roles in the uprising: With her husband in prison, well-connected matriarch Hayd%C3%A9e must handle the crises that befall her family, such as when their newscaster son, Clemente, announces on-air that the dictator is dead, an error that could cost him his life. His cousin Jimmy, a tough military captain involved in the coup, helps the pampered Clemente escape (Clemente's entitled whining and Jimmy's bravado make for some very funny scenes). The story unfolds largely through Hayd%C3%A9e's diary, documenting her growth into solidarity with the politically oppressed; at great risk, she becomes involved in a general strike that eventually ousts the dictator. Moya (The She-Devil in the Mirror) has an unlikely heroine in Hayd%C3%A9e, but she possesses one quality that her husband lacks: she's not been corrupted or disillusioned by politics. This intriguing novel turns the spotlight from the rulers onto the hopeful souls who will tolerate tyranny for only so long. (July)