DUST ON HER TONGUE by Rodrigo Rey Rosa


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Twelve tales--many evoking the uncanny, most with surprise endings--explore how people seek to gain power from others. While perhaps the entire collection is informed by political violence and repression in the author's Guatemala, only one--""Angelica""--touches outfight on the practices of political terrorism. In other pieces, killing is ritualistic and at times existential. In ""The Proof,"" a boy kills a canary believing that if God exists, He will prove himself by bringing the bird back to life; in ""The Truth,"" a young man drops a stone from a bridge ""like a god from on high, changing the life of a mortal."" Domination and freedom are personal--not political--goals and sought sometimes through trickery and manipulation (as in ""Burial,"" when an old man must play dead in order to end his days as he wishes; and in ""Xquic,"" in which a hoax frees two academics from the university grind). ""People of the Head"" seems to be uncomfortably racist in its narrative assumptions until the ending turns those assumptions on their head. Throughout, people take and fall moral tests whenever personal advancement is at stake (as when the ethnomusicologist in ""Las Lágrimas"" helps cause a death so that he can record funeral chants). ""Coralia""--about a woman, with ""an ego as big as a cathedral,"" and the men she manipulates--is perhaps the most realistic and one of the more satisfying stories. Rey Rosa writes about danger and precarious stability in an effective, straightforward style--but most of these tales remain small and gimmicky.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1992
Page count: 124pp
Publisher: City Lights