Words Without Borders just published an interesting review of Horacio Castellanos Moya‘s The She-Devil in the Mirror, translated by Katherine Silver for New Directions. According to the reviewer, George Fragopoulos,
Moya is a master of the harrowing, if often darkly comic, vitriolic diatribe; his claustrophobic voices exude and drip with despair, violence and abjection.
The She-Devil in the Mirror is narrated by Laura, a member of the social elite in San Salvador, and ostensibly centers on one moment of violence. It is ultimately, however, the inexplicability of this act that drives the novel and allows it to touch upon the political realities that had previously existed only at the margins of its protagonist’s consciousness.
Laura’s descent into madness (seemingly) begins with the violent murder of her best friend, Olga Maria, yet another well-connected, well-off member of her social circle. As our unreliable narrator begins to—rather unwittingly—peel the layers from the onion that is the mystery of Olga’s murder, we learn more than we ever really wanted to know about Laura and her acquaintances, her family and her lovers. It is a credit to Moya’s skill as a writer that he can make characters this vacuous, shallow, and unsympathetic worth following for nearly two hundred pages; but beyond that, the real protagonist of She-Devil in the Mirror is the country itself, an El Salvador left ravaged by Civil War, and the political climate that results thereafter.
Or, as Natasha Wimmer puts it in a sweeping and comprehensive re/overview printed by The Nation,
To read Dance With Snakes or The She-Devil in the Mirror is–in a small way–to understand how Castellanos Moya felt when he returned to El Salvador on the cusp of civil war: like an extraterrestrial in the country he called home.