Corpses bobbed in the foaming waves lashing the fortress wall, their bloated bellies bruised black-and-blue. Clamoring mutinously, prisoners climbed the ramparts. The waves rocked the corpses and rolled them up against the prison wall. The blazing sky was home to mangy buzzards, hovering high in the cruelly indifferent turquoise. The prisoner who was mending his blanket broke his thread and held his needle to his fat lip. He muttered bitterly: ‘The fucking sharks are weary of all that revolutionary flesh, but that bastard Banderas still isn’t satisfied! Hell!’
—from Ramón del Valle-Inclán’s Tyrant Banderas, translated from the Spanish by Peter Bush and published yesterday. Often considered the first great dictator novel and inspiration for Gabriel García Márquez’s The Autumn of the Patriarch and Augusto Roa Basto’s I, the Supreme, this is the first translation of Tyrant Banderas into English since 1929. Valle-Inclán is know mostly as a dramatist in Spain, and as a member of the Generation of ‘98 was one of the finest writers of Spanish modernismo. He invented a new style he dubbed esperpento—meaning both a grotesque, frightening person and a piece of nonsense—, typified in this book, and at one point after an argument with a fellow author, got in a fight and lost one arm. The cover tends to elicit strong reactions as well.