Horacio Castellanos Moya | Program Notes

Horacio Castellanos Moya

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The lead piece in The Nation's special Dec. 14 books issue is on Moya, a former writer-in-residence with City of Asylum/Pittsburgh.

The humanitarian organization shelters writers persecuted in their home countries. Moya, who's from El Salvador, fled there in the early '90s after receiving death threats for his novel El asco (Revulsion), a scathing, darkly comic indictment of Salvadoran politics and culture.

(Read a fuller account of Moya's story, and his art, in my August 2008 feature story: www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A50720.)

The Nation piece is ostensibly Wimmer's review of Moya's newly translated novels Dances With Snakes (Biblioasis) and The She-Devil in the Mirror (New Directions). But Wimmer takes the opportunity for a wider appreciation of Moya's fiction, which dates back 30 years.

Wimmer is best-known as the translator of the late Roberto Bolaño's critically acclaimed novels The Savage Detectives and 2666. She fairly anoints Moya as a leading light of a new generation of Latin American writers.

The article is titled "Novelist from Another Planet," Wimmer's way of describing a sensibility highly tuned to the horrors of violence while avoiding either assimilating or romanticizing it.

Some of her assessment: "Like Roberto Bolaño, who was a friend, Castellanos Moya is an anti-rhetorical writer, determined not to settle for smooth turns of phrase ..."

She adds: "Castellanos Moya has turned anxiety into an art form and an act of rebellion, and redeemed paranoia as a positive indicator of rot. Despite his estrangement from his country and his merciless criticism of it, he has put El Salvador on the literary map, giving it an international existence independent from the front-page news."

Moya is currently teaching in Japan, but still has ties here, and I've been told he's returning to Pittsburgh in the New Year. The attention in a national publication was nice news for City of Asylum, a volunteer operation based on the North Side (and involving partners including the Mattress Factory.)

It's also worth noting that last week, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh became one of only six awardees for the 2009 MetLife Innovative Space program. The award recognizes "artist space development projects that exhibit innovation, affordability for artists, sustainability, and community impact" and is accompanied by a $10,000 grant.

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