The She-Devil in the Mirror

Overview

Salvadorean society is shocked by the gruesome murder of a young upper-class woman, and no one more so than her best friend Laura. In her first-person solo narration, Laura rattles on and on about her disbelief and horror at the evils all around her—but who’s that in the mirror?
Laura Rivera can’t believe what has happened. Her best friend has been killed in cold blood in the living room of her home, in front of her two young daughters! Nobody knows who pulled the trigger, but ...

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The She-Devil in the Mirror

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Overview

Salvadorean society is shocked by the gruesome murder of a young upper-class woman, and no one more so than her best friend Laura. In her first-person solo narration, Laura rattles on and on about her disbelief and horror at the evils all around her—but who’s that in the mirror?
Laura Rivera can’t believe what has happened. Her best friend has been killed in cold blood in the living room of her home, in front of her two young daughters! Nobody knows who pulled the trigger, but Laura will not rest easy until she finds out. Her dizzying, delirious, hilarious, and blood-curdling one-sided dialogue carries the reader on a rough and tumble ride through the social, political, economic, and sexual chaos of post-civil war San Salvador. A detective story of pulse-quickening suspense, The She-Devil in the Mirror is also a sober reminder that justice and truth are more often than not illusive. Castellanos Moya’s relentless, obsessive narrator—female, rich, paranoid, wonderfully perceptive, and, in the end, fabulously unreliable—paints with frivolous profundity a society in a state of collapse.
Castellanos Moya’s Senselessness was acclaimed “an innovative and invigoratingly twisted piece of art” (Village Voice) and “a brilliantly crafted moral fable, as if Kafka had gone to Latin America for his source materials” (Russell Banks).

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Editorial Reviews

Natasha Wimmer - The Nation
“He has put El Salvador on the literary map.”
Chad Post - Three Percent
“This book reads beautifully…and is quite captivating. Looks like Moya's reputation will continue to grow for years to come.”
Roberto Bolaño
“The only writer of my generation who knows how to narrate the horror, the secret Vietnam that Latin America was for a long time.”
Nate Martin - Stopsmiling.com
“Dark and comic, at turns violent and oddly erotic.”
Tommy Wallach - The World (PRI)
“Like Kafka, Moya keeps an ironic eye trained on the way in which bureaucracies become corollaries of dictatorships….His leaps from absurdity to terror and back again are like something out of The Castle.”
Don Sjoerdsma - Northwest Phoenix
“[It] careen[s] with such giddy enthusiasm.”
John Greenya - Sunday Washington Times
“Humor amid the madness and evil. Don't let the breezy, often funny and frequently irreverent tone fool you.”
Joshua Marcus - Times Literary Supplement
“Castellanos Moya's narrator is delightfully paranoid and obsessed.”
Roberto Bolano
“The only writer of my generation who knows how to narrate the horror, the secret Vietnam that Latin America was for a long time.”
The Barnes & Noble Review

How much animus should a novelist press upon his creation? Assuming that Céline isn't your main man, this question will confront you, like a famished bear, if you decide to give Horacio Castellanos Moya's The She-Devil in the Mirror a look-see. Moya's politically-tinted novel introduces readers to Laura Rivera -- a society woman who is distraught by the murder of her best friend, Olga Maria. Like an execrable host, Moya allows Rivera to buttonhole readers for the span of the narrative. This is nothing if not a daring gambit. Rivera is a vacuous, snobbish, mendacious shrew, who throughout her monologue cavalierly addresses the reader as "my dear."

Rivera is a prism through which Moya depicts the prejudices of El Salvador's affluent minority. Although Rivera declares her distaste for politics, her apathy is imbued with political judgments. When a suspect is apprehended, who doesn't confess, she gripes that the authorities are too beholden to the ideals of human rights to apply torture. She detests coming into contact with lower social classes, and is quick to tarnish those whom she doesn't like as communists. For her, money and good breeding excuse most blemishes (though she withholds this grace from her ex-husband).

Rivera's existence is a rebuke to the marketing wisdom that cajoles writers to fluff up their flawed creations with redeemable traits. At best, one can say she has a scrappy wit and would make for a first-rate guest on a lowbrow talk show. ("Look at that one with the miniskirt: she looks like she's a cellulite saleswoman.") But as sociologists and cultural critics have long professed, one can learn a lot about asociety from its refuse.

--Reviewed by Christopher Byrd

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811218467
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 9/22/2009
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Horacio Castellanos Moya was born 1957 in Honduras. He has lived in San Salvador, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico (where he spent ten years as a journalist, editor, and political analyst), Spain, and Germany. In 1988 he won the National Novel Prize from Central American University for his first novel. His work has been published and translated in England, Germany, El Salvador and Costa Rica. He has published ten novels and is now living in exile as part of the City of Asylum project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Katherine Silver is an award-winning literary translator and the co-director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC).

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