THE DISSERTATION by Richard Koster


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This combination of Latin American farce and fantasy is afflicted by the tendency of the author to identify, as they say, with his hero--and identify too heavily for wittiness. The hero, Leon Fuertes (1917-1964), his antecedents and his political career, constitute a successful macho--descended from a line of gutsy whores, married to a devoted madonna, president of the fictional Republic of Tinieblas, philosopher and martyr. Leon is perennially surrounded by ripe seductresses, the most important being his mother Rebeca. His father, her patron, expired from apoplexy when, on the delivery table, he saw for the first time the obscene tattoos Rebeca had acquired in a former incarnation as a Manchu concubine. Leon is subsequently driven to morphine and lucrative pederasty after a month of frantic copulation with a young woman he then discovered to be his lost twin sister. At intervals, however, ghosts of one forebear or another appeared to lead him onward to the Presidential Palace. He sustains that role with equal virtuosity, smug remarks on the limitations of power, and a record as the only Latin ever to face down John F. Kennedy. Leon is finally assassinated by a nephew who spied him deflowering his, the nephew's, sister. This does not end the book, however, a fourth of which is devoted to footnotes concerning the author and his pornographically unfaithful wife. The Tinieblans themselves draw a few opera bouffe giggles with their Partido Opportunista and their survival of the Kaiser's bluff to annex them. But Koster's pretensions to lacerate the Latin American mentality begin to founder on his self-absorption in the incest theme--as well as his own adolescent prurience. Anya Seton's The Turquoise costumed over as lewd self-parody: it's better straight.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Harper's Magazine Press-dist. by Harper & Row