I, THE SUPREME BY AUGUSTO ROA BASTOS

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Hello slaves!

I have staged a coup and taken over books, yo. I’ve been reading through [P]’s reviews: what a sappy sack of snivelling shit. Well, now he has been sacked and sits snivelling in a cell, where the only ears that are lent him are those of the rats who care nothing for tales of childhood and libidinous university pranks. Before he was taken away he was reading I, the Supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos, which is a novel, I am told, about a Paraguayan dictator, and not the memoirs of Diana Ross.

Why the Supreme?

[P] seems to enjoy these dictator novels; I spy many of them on his shelves. On my shelves. Maybe he is one of those masochistic mackloids who are aroused by the idea of subjugation; I will put in a good word for him with my master torturer, Mr Fluffy.

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[Mr Fluffy wants to spend some quality time with you]

Lean the Supreme?

It is over 400 pages, this book. Heavy too. I asked one of my minions to throw it for me. The distance covered wouldn’t satisfy a lazy labradoodle. So, as it cannot be used as a toy I may as well read it. Put yourselves to work, you lethargic lollygabbers, while I work through these pages; one of us may learn something in the process.

Your Immortal Tyrant’s Notes

As I have faith in your untelligence I have broken down the book, like the backbones of my prisoners.

The opening of the book: Treachery; a pasquinade is found which apes the style of The Supreme giving orders as to what is to happen in the event of his death. Commence: lots of waffle about the unreliability of language and writing. Mystery: who wrote the pasquinade? Style: Joycean. Punning. Werge. Form: written as though it is the memoirs or notes of the dictator, compiled by the Compiler. Sentences are left unfinished, documents half-destroyed. Footnotes abound, often illuminating the ravings of The Supreme, or contradicting them.

Incidental but interesting: The Supreme owns a meteor. One of his subjects is making him a vampire bat fur coat.

The midway point: The linear structure has died in the middle of the road. Roa Bastos was spotted driving away from the scene of the crime. The author was then seen reversing over the carcass [just to make sure]. End result I: Pasquinade forgotten. End result II: lots of confusing waffle about the political history of Paraguay and the dictator’s life prior to taking control, involving a carousel of characters with absurd names. Warning: don’t attempt to read and follow with tired eyes.

The end: A resolution: the death of The Supreme.

Final thoughts: The book can be divided into four parts: a fantastic opening – a muddled, occasionally tedious middle section – a penultimate section which is much easier to follow and which makes clearer aspects of the middle section – a satisfying conclusion.

Rating: I say this book is very good. I was tempted to call it excellent, but too much praise makes man decadent; one must wield the whip as one pats the back. Adios for now, slaves.

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5 comments

  1. You read a lot of South-American literature, I see…
    What do you think about The feast of the Goat by Vargas Llosa? And The Kingdom of this World by Carpentier? Who are your favourites among poets?

    1. Thank you! I do read a lot of Latin American lit, yeah. I’m not a massive fan of Llosa, actually. I enjoyed his War of the End of the World, but not unreservedly. I haven’t read all of The Feast… because it started to irritate me. Carpentier is one of my favourite writers, i loved Kingdom but I think his greatest novel is The Lost Steps. I like a shit-tonne of poets, and this late at night and off the top of head I’m sure I’ll forget to mention some, but some of my favourites are Rilke, Celan, Wallace Stevens, Homer, Yeats.

      1. Sorry, I was talking of Latin American Poets 🙂

        I loved The Feast of the Goat, why did it irritate you? That’s very interesting. I love investigating why literature can be irritant sometimes. It happened to me with The Mimic Men by Naipaul and it took me seven months or more to go beyond the aversion. I knew everyone disliked Naipual because of his political uncorrectedness, but it was clear to me that it was not my case. I had to be honest, I was really disturbed and it wasn’t a matter of politics. So… why don’t you like The Feast of the Goat? Perhaps the story of Urania Cabral? I read it ten years ago at university (I studied Latin American literature for a while) and found it a wonderful historical-psychological novel.

        I loved The Kingdom of this world but haven’t read The lost steps yet… thanks for the advice. 🙂 I am now reading the last year Pulitzer-winning novel about North Corea and I think that then I’ll read The Voyage by Céline.

        I deeply love writing and reading good literary criticism but no one read me in Italian (I write on a magazine and on a website, but you know… Italy has a problem with books at the moment), so I try to write short reviews in a language that is not mine. However, I’m always happy to read your long, interesting opinion.

        If you’re interested… I found an interesting blogger about African Literature here: http://kinnareads.com/

        Goodnight!

        P.S. No one among Italian poets?

  2. Or did you mean Latin American poets? I’ve never really got on with them. I don’t mind Lorca [Spanish, I know] and some Neruda. But I could live without them. I haven’t yet read the Asturias novel, although I own it.

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