Tyrant Banderas (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 20 Sep 2012
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'Tyrant Banderas was first published in 1926 and remains a masterpiece - now given a new lease of life by Peter Bush's excellent translation.'(The Observer)
About the Author
RAMON DEL VALL-INCLAN (1866–1936) was born into an impoverished aristocratic family in a rural village in Galicia, Spain. His first book of stories came out in Spain in 1895. Valle-Inclán was celebrated as the author of Sonatas: The Memoirs of the Marquis of Bradomín, which was published in 1904 and is considered the finest novel of Spanish modernismo, as well as for his extensive and important career in the theater, not only as a major twentieth-century playwright but also as a director and actor.
PETER BUSH is an award-winning translator who lives in Barcelona. He is currently translating Quim Monzó’s A Thousand Morons and Josep Pla’s The Gray Notebook (forthcoming from NYRB Classics).
ALBERTO MANGUEL is an Argentinian-born Canadian essayist and novelist. He has written twenty works of criticism, including The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (with Gianni Guadalupi), A History of Reading, and The Library at Night.
Top customer reviews
Tyrant Banderas is a brutal dictator imposing his will by fear and killing, he has numerous hangers-on; and then there's the revolution trying to emancipate the indigenous people headed by Roque Cepada. Ultimately trapping the Tyrant in his citadel. There are international ministers trying to manage themselves (embarrassments in whorehouses etc), their general positions and protecting their countries interests (particularly colonial Spain). There's an interesting character Scarface Zac who joins the revolution carrying the bones (flesh previously been eaten off by pigs) of his recently killed child for luck. A lot of the events occur during the national party of `Day of the Dead' (a mainly Mexican celebration I understand) so the allusion to revolution, death and energy is obvious. You must be careful in thinking this is a simple revolutionary narrative; though the dictator starts it (by wanting to begin killing to suppress people) and ends it (with his demise) what goes on in between is quite sketchy and difficult to follow. I strongly suspect this book makes more sense in the original Spanish.
This story style is very similar to Jose Cela who wrote 20 years later. If you can stand reading a story and come away wondering what really happened, forgetting most of what you read because few characters persist but liking a sketchy modernist style then you'll do fine with this book. It you want a linear, natural realism tale then I'd suggest you avoid (though it is a good short example to try if you're not sure).
"Revolution. Death, arson, torture, and far off, like an implacable deity, the mummified figure of Tyrant"
You may wish to consider Azuela's works on the Mexico revolution or perhaps Marmol's Amalia an account of true Dictator Rosa during the 1840s in Argentina or possibly Bastos' " I Supreme" (though to be fair I did not rate this book very highly at all - now that was a trial to read) looking at Velasco's dictatorship of Paraguay from 1814.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The novel is a classic instance of Valle-Inclan's use of "esperpento," exaggerated grotesque language which reinforces the exaggerated and grotesque nature of his subject matter. It is similar to the lively and imagistic style of Asturias-- but not so relevant to so-called "magic realism," which is more a matter of the sudden and temporary lurching from the realistic into the magical.
The book is composed on a strict numerological basis, with seven parts, each containing 3 books, except for the 4th middle part, which contains seven books. Hence book four in the fourth part is the precise center of the novel-- and concerns treachery visited upon the "Indians."
The novel covers a spread of individuals and groups: the tyrant and his lackeys, the revolutionaries, the Spanish colony, the diplomatic corps-- and in the background, churning away, we have the chaotic celebrations during the Day of the Dead. (Compare: Under the Volcano.) My favorite part of the novel is Valle-Inclan's intense descriptions of his disparate unfolding scenes. An especially acute example comes in part 6, book 3, when the Spanish minister is high on morphine and the surrounding scene becomes wobbly and impressionistic.
The 4 page introduction is brief and perfunctory, very disappointing given how much can be said about Valle-Inclan and his masterpiece. I can't compare the translation to the original, but it often seems awkward to me, especially the dialog. Perhaps this is the responsibility of Valle-Inclan? Or Peter Bush, the translator? More likely the latter. As a great fan of Gregory Rabassa's fluid translations, I wish he had tackled this one as well. Still, I'm very grateful that the excellent NYRB Classics have put out a much-needed new translation of this unusual and influential novel.
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