Review of The President by Miguel Ángel Asturias

In a fictional Central American dictatorship, based on Guatemala of Asturias‘s youth, the military’s highest ranking general is early one morning murdered in the street by a mentally ill beggar. The president takes the opportunity to pin the murder on another highranking general, suspected of plotting a revolution, and it sets off a chain of events that reaches into every fabric of society.

The story is in The President told sporadically from a number of different perspectives, which could easily have turned out erratic and difficult to follow, but it works seamlessly and the here very subtle hints of Asturias’s magical realism ends up feeling more real than reality itself. As a result the reader efficiently gets provided with a glimpse into what it’s like to live in a dictatorship where absolutely anyone at any given time can find themselves inescapably beneath the bootheel of a law that is always “righteous” by definition, except a president who is unconditionally above it, and a terrifying understanding of how a people, out of fear, essentially can oppress itself simply by constantly autocorrecting the “truth” into whatever suits the president best for the moment.

The President is however not quite as focused and consistent in its voice, and therefore not quite as excellent and captivating, as for instance Men of Maize but it’s a very strong, passionately angry, early effort from an eventual Nobel laureate.

4,5/5 rounded down to 4

Naked Still before the World I Stand

Call me naive.
Call me a hopeless dreamer.
Call me a stubborn product
of a childhood in the nineties,

flimsy and irrelevant
to the world as is.

We were born into the world
as naked as our emperors,
standing on the shoulders
of giant fairies
looking far
towards a future
that would never come.

Forgive us
for we share not
your cynicism,
at least not in our hearts,

and we still believe
in the
naked and complicated
beauty of a snowflake
rather than the
simple and comfortable
sizeable power
of a snowball.

Relay

My grandmother turns the television off
whenever it shows
people
sad and suffering.

Says she can’t stand to think about
all the evil in the world.

Says she only wants to see
happy people laughing.

That’s alright grandma.
You’ve earned the right.
You’ve lived for damn near a century,
through wars,
and kept four generations of family together.
Remember when we all got together
to celebrate your ninetieth?
That was rather special.
It’s not your fault
we’re all falling
off and out and apart
now.

I wish you wouldn’t worry about it,
and I don’t have the heart
to remind you
that
the laughter of the happy ones
are dancing on the
broken backs of the
tears of the
sad ones.

I’ll carry the burden
of that knowledge
for you
now.

We Be Pagans (Ode to Walpurgis Night)

Fire. Fire. Fireworks.
Family and Friends.
Barbecue.
Barbecue.
How are you?
Breakfast, Dinner and Lunch.
Can’t Complain,
Drunk and Awake
from
Coffee and Punch,
Beer, Wine and Cider.
Into the Elements,
cue Clearings and Groves,
for May is May is May
is Spring, I suppose,
regardless of the weather.
Wet and Cold
Happy Hugs
the flames be a-lickin.
Out with the Old.
In with the New.
Goblins and Trolls
clear out, be gone,
ye nature’s wicked crew.
Tonight we have Love
(if you’ll call it that)
to keep our Hearts Beating,
for We Be Pagans
and We Love Food
and Fire and Flames
and to Fuck after Eating.
Oh do we ever.

Happy Walpurgis Night Everyone.