December 2, 2023 | Rome, Italy

The She-Devil in the Mirror

By |2018-03-21T18:44:24+01:00April 23rd, 2011|Recent Reviews|

By Horacio Castellanos Moya, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver

Alma Books, 2009 (2010). 178 pages.


ull appreciation of Moya requires an awareness of the 12-year Salvadoran civil war (1980-1992), which pitted a U.S.-backed paramilitary right wing against an oddball assortment of leftist groups whose supporters counted unions, farmers and the Jesuit clergy. Haves brutalized have nots in a deadly decade of slaughter that absurdly concluded in stalemate. No wonder Moya claws through the aftermath with a viciously funny satire that merges soap opera mores with a murder mystery at the expense of the venal Salvadoran upper middle class.

Laura Rivera’s best friend Olga María has been murdered. Brutalized in her stylish San Salvador home. That’s enough to get twenty-something Laura talking. And talking. Frivolous, rude, licentious, spoiled, amoral, paranoid, the America-loving Laura has all the answers, or thinks she does. The novel is her dizzying monologue, her way of putting greed, lust, shopping, daydreams and envy into a real housewives of San Salvador package, complete with rich daddies and loathsome “Communist” priests. She’s so intrigued by possible collusion that, horrors, she doesn’t even have time to watch her favorite Brazilian telenovela with her mother. First she blames the cops, then shady business associates, then cocaine-snorting politicos, until, well, they’re all out to get her. Oh, and by the way, isn’t that waiter hot. And yes, I’d love a shot of Kahlúa. Taking a bite out of Laura’s world is like chomping into an apple with a razor at the core. The ensuing howl is that of the blighted but unrepentant nouveau riche. “I feel like I’m in a movie,” says Laura. Starring guess who? First published in 2000 as “La diabla en el espejo.”

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