Book Notes: Castellanos Moya’s Moronga

The novel is very recent, so there is no translation yet. I’m sure there will be because this author gets translated, although I have no idea what the title can be in English. (Moronga is a very vulgar Central American term for a penis.)

It’s a fantastic book, folks. Castellanos Moya is definitely part of the new generation of Latin American writers I talked about earlier this summer who write about Latin America honestly, directly, and without the cloying cutesiness of the Boom and the post-Boom. The writing is also a lot more realist than anything we’ve seen from the previous generations, which I definitely like.

In Moronga, a Salvadoran professor teaching at a US college goes to the archives to do research on a famous poet. But he’s Salvadoran, so of course the journey to the archives in DC ends in a shootout in Chicago between drug gangs.

This is a novel about immigrants who, whether exquisitely educated or barely literate, exist in a world of their own, feeling puzzled and intimidated by everything around them. A legal status, a fancy job, education and credentials do nothing to stave off the terror because its source is not anything we usually suspect. You know that old expression, sticking out like sore thumbs? Salvadorans in this novel are the sorest of thumbs. That is, until you get to the part about Guatemalans.

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