The Dream of My Return By Horacio Castellanos Moya

There are stream of consciousness novels in the tradition of Joyce and Woolf. Babbling brooks that flow through green meadows, taking strange and uncertain twists and turns over rocks and tree roots while gently lulling readers into serenity and sleepiness.

And then there is this novella, The Dream of My Return: a raging river of consciousness, a harum-scarum flood of thoughts and memories and emotion and literary caffeine, David-Foster-Wallace-ian multi-page paragraphs populated with epically long, comma-spliced sentences trying to cram in as much meaning and life and energy before the appearance of the mighty dam of a period that tries to contain the waters and bring them to a full stop.

Frenetic and funny and exhausting. Witty and informative (with regards to recent El Salvadoran history) and sexy.

Sprinting all out from the opening lines to the finish with nary a moment to breathe, The Dream of My Return is a tempest tossed voyage through the mind of a narrator over-analyzing his past and worrying like a paranoiac over his present and future. This may not be among the best of books, but it certainly is entertaining as hell and one-of-a-kind. 0811223434 Perhaps the most unsettling thing about this very unsettling book is the fact that Moya's protagonist is NOT the same man who flees his homeland fearing for his murder at the hands of the government (or guerillas) in Senselessness (2004), though at first blush (and even beyond), this seems in many ways to be the continuation of that story. But it's not. And it's not even some kind of parallel identity crisis as much as it is a parallel narrative identity: though they are different men, and though they are different novels, they complete an arc that depicts an hypnotic, nightmarish commonality of experience for those traumatized by political terror and civil war in Latin America. Those who feel Moya's prose wobbled towards the mundane in Dance With Snakes will be thrilled to pick up those protracted, paranoid sentences that make Senselessness and The Dream of My Return such compelling reads. Kudos, too, belong to Katherine Silver for her excellent translation. 0811223434 Needless to say, Horacio Castellanos Moya is an amazing writer not only does he know how to exaggerate abnormality, but also he lets the readers to explore politic struggles in El Salvador in a satirical way. His metaphors are deep and dark, but they are always genius.

In his last book, The Dream of My Return, we meet up with Erasmo Aragon who is the protagonist of the book. Erasmo seems to me as if he is a reflection of Salvadorian people subconsciousness. He has a pain in his liver, he has traumas and he is psychologically obsessed with almost everything ( including in paranoia and being an alcoholic). As a journalist, he comes back to El Salvador from Mexico civil War in order to deal with his pain with named Don Chente who is an acupuncturist and uses alternative medicine and hypnosis. And the story develops incredibly fun and disturbing.

Maya makes amazing delusions on Aragon as using hypnosis and materials like acupuncture as metaphors.Comparing to other books, Moya plays with the myth of repression.

If you like dark humor and over-exaggeration, I highly recommend it.

10/7 0811223434 the fifth castellanos moya book to be translated into english, the dream of my return (el sueño del retorno) finds the salvadoran author mining familiar territory. adept at creating and sustaining a sense of dread and foreboding, castellanos moya's story builds ever more frenetically. while not as arresting as his incomparable senselessness, the dream of my return is, nonetheless, another dark and darkly humorous novel from the long-exiled writer.

and it became evident that only the devil himself knows the pathways taken by our self-esteem

*translated from the spanish by katherine silver (aira, sada, borges, giralt torrente, bernal, adán, et al.) 0811223434 Las mejores novelas que uno puede leerson aquellas que no solo cuentan más de una historia, sino aquellas que además de echar luz sutilmente sobre la Historia también logran entretener y llevarnos a reflexionar sobre nuestra forma de leer el mundo.

Castellanos Moya me recuerda sobremanera a Rubem Fonseca, aunque la verdad no creo que ninguno de los dos se ofendería con la comparación, es algo extraño porque no me sucede igual a la inversa.

Esa mezcla de sexo, violencia, poder, política, prensa, y, como en este libro: medicina, psicología y campechanez, explorados con una prosa lúcida y medida son capaces de atraparme.

Castellanos Moya es un lugar necesario dentro del panorama actual de la literatura hispanoamericana, junto con Rey Rosa y Lemebel y el ya mencionado Fonseca. Junto a otros más también, pero por sus temas lo encuentro más emparentado con ellos que con los demás. 0811223434

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A high-octane paranoia deranges a writer and fuels a dangerous plan to return home to El Salvador.

Drinking way too much and breaking up with his wife, an exiled journalist in Mexico City dreams of returning home to El Salvador. But is it really a dream or a nightmare? When he decides to treat his liver pain with hypnosis, his few impulse-control mechanisms rapidly dissolve. Hair-brained schemes, half-mad arguments, unraveling murder plots, hysterical rants: everything escalates at a maniacal pace, especially the crazy humor. The Dream of My Return


While the setting may be the Salvadoran Civil War, which the history books poignantly describe as having lasted 12 years, 3 months and 1 day between 1979 and 1992, my mind couldn't help but drift to every other war, conflict, struggle, (whatever the name!) that put people of good faith and conscience in exile. This is more a long, lyrical dirge to displacement, it seems to me, than it is to any specific time and place. It is equally about the guilt that survivors carry, far away from their homeland, impotent to help the loved ones left behind, powerless to engage in any meaningful way to redress what went wrong back home.

I worry about the generations of people that we are creating: what damage to the psyche to live in a constant state of violence, the soul absorbing anger, guilt, rage, sorrow, in a constant stream, taken in through the very pores of their skin, day in day out, for years, sometimes for decades. What damaged souls are emerging from these wars, these souls scarred beyond description; some of them scarred beyond help. What nightmares do they live through, after the nightmare of real-world conflict is past?

What dreams these people must have.

It is no surprise that people who survive carry the guilt of survival by mere association. It would be a dream I would have every night of my life, so I understand clearly why our protagonist is in a constant state of fear, anxiety, paranoia: it is only guilt, speaking through the breath of conscience.

[A dream ]... when I killed someone but without a specific memory of the act, the anguish produced by the guilt and the fear of having killed somebody without remembering the act or the victim, that was the end of the nightmare, from which I'd abruptly woken, needless to say, but without experiencing any relief from the aforementioned anxiety; I spent a long time lying in bed deeply shaken because something inside me was telling me that the dream was not a dream but rather a message from my unconscious, and that I had probably killed someone and now had no memory of it -- my psyche had erased the fact, who knows when or how. Remembering that nightmare ... had upset me every time I'd remembered it; it gave me a kind of vertigo, as if I were at the edge of a black hole whose unknown strength might at any moment viciously suck me in and carry me off to a reality that I could not possibly imagine, the very possibility of which horrified me beyond all reason.

It seems the damage done gets worse with each succeeding atrocity and the world is becoming a very hotbed of paranoia, depression and madness. Where will it end?

An interesting question is posed in the final chapter: is it possible to re-enter the conflict to work through the madness from within; or is it better to stay away and find some semblance of peace from the outside?

Highly recommended.

He's a writer who has gotten under my skin.

Thanks to Glenn and his superb review for having introduced me to this writer. 0811223434 An often funny, extremely political little book that thrums with anxiety and vodka tonics, with sexual longing and questions of identity. I quite liked Finch's suggestion in the NYT that this is sort of like a surrealist book where nothing surreal happens; there is as much Murakami here as there is Bolano. There are issues - the treatment of women, some repetition, too little resolution (I understand thematically why that makes sense, but it doesn't necessarily make it the best way to go - but Moya's strange, rambling prose will stick with you.

The central conceit of a man in exile who starts seeing a mysterious doctor-cum-therapist-cum-hypnotist who unlocks his secrets seems pretty flimsy, but Moya does great things with it, with the strangely metronomic way that the body adjusts to weekly appointments. I do wish I had known more about El Salvador's civil war before reading - a bit of anticipatory Wikipedia might be worthwhile.

The translation, incidentally, is fabulous, so good that I wondered a couple of times how she did it. 0811223434

Born in Honduras in 1957 and raised in El Salvador, Horacio Castellanos Moya attended college in Toronto. He returned to El Salvador in 1980 in the teeth of a popular uprising against the government and witnessed the massacre of unarmed students and workers which prompted him to travel to Costa Rica and then Mexico where he became a journalist.

When it came time to write novels, his list includes Senseless, a tale of a sex-obsessed alcoholic writer hired by the Catholic Church to clean up a lengthy government report on the torture and eventual slaughter of thousands of innocent villagers; She-Devil in the Mirror where a woman investigates the cold blooded murder of her best friend, a murder taking place in her friend’s own living room in front of her two young daughters; Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador, written as a furious one paragraph rant on the injustices committed against the people of El Salvador, a book that earned the novelist death threats.

One work of the author's I find particularly compelling is his short story Confinement where we listen in on what goes through the mind of an El Salvador guerrilla in hiding, confined to a room in a home of a family sympathetic to his cause. The guerrilla feels trapped in the hot room; he’d like to have a drink. If he could live his life over again, he’d live exactly as his instincts dictate; after all, he joined the revolution out of instinct, like a tiger sniffing out its prey. And when he gets out? He’d be happy, ready to dive back into the city, a good thing, like being born again.

In The Dream of My Return we likewise listen in on the thoughts of a man in crisis, this time its Erasmo, a journalist from El Salvador who is currently living in exile in Mexico City. Erasmo shares much in common with that guerrilla in hiding: he experiences exile as a confinement; he yearns to dive back into his native El Salvador and thus be reborn as the new Erasmo; last but hardly least, he could use a drink.

Actually, there’s more than just Erasmo’s thoughts – we also listen in on his conversations with his family and fellow exiles and follow his movements and actions in and around Mexico City. But since there are no breaks in the long paragraphs from first page to last, it’s as if dialogue and discussion, events and encounters are all contained within the journalist’s stream-of-consciousness, as if the outside world is compressed inside Erasmo - the mind as restricted to a hot room; the mind as insurgent guerrilla.

I read The Dream of My Return over the course of two weeks. At 135 pages the novel is short enough to finish in one or two sittings but I wanted to remain with the narrator, suffering through his crisis, feeling the full impact of his plight as he lives in a pressure cooker with the temperature turned up again and again in all sorts of ways. And that’s all sorts of ways as in the following:

Suspicion, Paranoia, Fear: Erasmo can’t go to a doctor without sensing he could be poisoned; he can’t converse with his fellow Salvadorians without looking around to see if any of the men or women in the room are enemy informants. After all, there are so many enemies – agents of the El Salvador military government and the American CIA, to name just two.

Drinking: In many respects, Erasmo is his own worst enemy – he knows he shouldn’t drink; fueled by alcohol, he might fly into a rage and usually wind up returning home only to pass out on the living room couch and wake up the next morning with a pounding headache and intolerable stomach pains. But he has oh so many issues to deal with and having a drink is such an enjoyable, effective quick fix, at least in the short term.

Doctor Visits: One of the more fascinating parts of the novel finds our journalist in intense physical agony, forcing him to seek out an old retired friend of the family, a physician by the name of Don Chente who convinces his patient to undergo hypnosis. But there are consequences of his hypnosis sessions: having vivid nightmares as well as “telling the story of my life had turned into an unanticipated labor that threatened to foment dangerous internal chaos.” If this isn’t enough, Erasmo continually conjectures what he might have revealed under hypnosis, reason to cause even further alarm.

Memory: Discussions with Don Chente lead to past memories, including how his father was shot in the back for political reasons, how his maternal grandmother turning him against his mother and most especially his father, a man she hated even after he was murdered. A one point he acknowledges he was “a traumatized child who broke out in tears of dread at the shriek of a siren.”

Dissolved marriage: His relationship with wife Eva has turned into unending torment – fanning the fires of domestic hell is Eva admitting she had an affair with an actor by the name of Antolín. And there’s his little daughter Evita pulling at his heartstrings.

Murder: Erasmo discusses with Mr. Rabbit, a former Salvadorian guerrilla, his wish to kill the man who turned him into a cuckold - the actor Antolín. Was this wise? Mr. Rabbit swings into action and hands Erasmo the hot chamber of the weapon he used to do the deed. Now the anxious journalist has even more worries.

The Return: He must be nuts!! Does he really plan to take a flight to his home land where chances are he will be greeted at the airport by military police and promptly lead to prison where he will be tortured and shot? But then again, El Salvador might be just the place to rejuvenate his guilt-racked life. His makes his final decision but not until the very last paragraph. In this way, Horacio Castellanos Moya has written a thriller.

Where had I drummed up such naïve, even suicidal enthusiasm that allowed me to disguise the dream of my return not only as a stimulating adventure but also as my first step toward changing my life for the better? What made me think that the Salvadoran military would understand that I was not a guerrilla fighter but rather an independent journalist, that they would simply forget the stacks of articles I had written against them, the military, during my Mexican exile? 0811223434 The Latin American novel is rife with rambling first-person narrators prone to digressions and seeming plot dead-ends (see the maestros Infante and Bolaño for more), and this short entertaining novel continues in that tradition with a frenetic narrator receiving treatment for his nerves from doctor Don Chente as his marriage decomposes, and his rage towards his wife’s lover rises to a murderous pitch, and a sequence of other events occur of varying interest as he plans his return to El Salvador at the end of the civil war. Not as humorous as the blurb indicates, not a patch on Mr. Bernhard, but pleasing for the two hours reading time. 0811223434 The first half of this achieves levitation -- the language and story unite to stream across and down the pages. A great LOL-worthy bit early on and in general a solid read throughout -- swirling anxiety uber alles. 0811223434