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An NYRB Classics Original

The first great twentieth-century novel of dictatorship, and the avowed inspiration for García Márquez’s The Autumn of the Patriarch and Roa Bastos’s I, the Supreme, Tyrant Banderas is a dark and dazzling portrayal of a mythical Latin American republic in the grip of a monster. Ramón del Valle-Inclán, one of the masters of Spanish modernism, combines the splintered points of view of a cubist painting with the campy excesses of 19th-century serial fiction to paint an astonishing picture of a ruthless tyrant facing armed revolt.

       It is the Day of the Dead, and revolution has broken out, creating mayhem from Baby Roach’s Cathouse to the Harris Circus to the deep jungle of Tico Maipú. Tyrant Banderas steps forth, assuring all that he is in favor of freedom of assembly and democratic opposition. Mean­while, his secret police lock up, torture, and execute students and Indian peasants in a sinister castle by the sea where even the sharks have tired of a diet of revolutionary flesh. Then the opposition strikes back. They besiege the dictator’s citadel, hoping to bring justice to a downtrodden, starving populace.

           Peter Bush’s new translation of Valle-Inclán’s seminal novel, the first into English since 1929, reveals a writer whose tragic sense of humor is as memorably grotesque and disturbing as Goya’s in his The Disasters of War.

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