An exquisitely wry novel that builds on the infinite variations of anxiety as narrative force.
A hypochondriac journalist living in Mexico visits a doctor for pain in his overwrought liver, and the history of a life is examined. He wants to return to El Salvador now that peace seems to be settling in, especially now that his wife has confessed to having an affair. The doctor is more of an alchemist, and the setting is surreal—an elegant penthouse where women drink tea and play canasta. Don Chente is a doctor, acupuncturist, psychologist and homeopath in one; he asks personal questions that probe the journalist’s intentions. Hypnosis opens memories, real or imagined, from the patient's childhood—of his father and of the murderous politics that sent him and his uncle Muñecón into self-imposed exile in Mexico 11 years earlier. His dream of returning to his homeland is a self-inflated vision of the brave journalist reporting the sordid facts of the revolution when in reality the turmoil is about over. Mysteriously, Don Chente disappears, and the journalist is now driven by needs that include discovering what the doctor learned from him while he was under hypnosis. Paranoia creeps in as he envisions the doctor as a political informant. A drunken romp through Mexico City ensues, and when Erasmito, the journalist named only once in the novel, in a memory, passes through security at the airport, he sees his doctor passing him on his way back into Mexico. He erupts with anxiety; he is hopeless, helpless, and his life is a never-ending cycle of hypochondria, paranoia and the absurd.
Moya has written a tight little novel that is wickedly witty and built on the idea of memory as a never-ending cause of inspiration and turmoil.