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

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