22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Horacio Castellanos Moya

Portrait Horacio Castellanos Moya
© Ali Ghandtschi

Horacio Castellanos Moya was born in 1957 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. When he was four, his family moved to his father’s homeland, El Salvador. As a young man, he studied history for six months at York University in Toronto, Ontario, before moving back to El Salvador in 1979. There he worked as a journalist committed to the leftist cause, although he would distance himself from its ideology in 1984. In 1982, he began working as an editor for the Salvadoran news agency, and in 1984 as a correspondent for the Brazilian magazine »Cuadernos del tercer mundo.« In 1991, Castellanos Moya became one of the founders of the first newspaper to be published in El Salvador after the civil war. But the calm did not last long. His book »El asco« (tr: Revulsion) appeared in 1997. Subtitled »Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador,« it used the work of the Austrian writer to paint an exaggerated, angry picture of the state of the Central American country, in which nothing is sugarcoated or aggrandized. As a result Castellanos Moya received death threats and was forced to leave El Salvador in a hurry.

The author made his literary debut nine years before that with the novel »La diáspora« (tr: Diaspora). It is the story of exiles from El Salvador during the civil war, a fate he shared, living in Mexico City from 1981 to 1991. In 1988, the book was honored with the Premio Nacional de la Novela awarded by the Central American University »José Simeón Cañas.« His first book to be translated into German was the 2000 novel »La diabla en el espejo« (Eng: »The She-Devil in the Mirror«, 2009). Written as the protagonist’s first-person narrative, Castellanos Moya uses the detective fiction genre for a scathing look at the Salvadoran upper class. In a review for the German trade journal »LiteraturNachrichten,« Alexandra Ortiz Wallner praised the fast pace of the story, which however, she wrote, also allows reflection on a single sentence, since the book leaves much to the reader’s imagination. The most recent book to be translated into German was »El sueño del retorno« (tr: The Dream of Returning), which can be seen as the continuation of his »fragmentary chronicle of Central America« (»Neue Zürcher Zeitung«), is redolent with the writer’s personal longing for the home from which he was twice driven out. The story is as suspenseful as it is convoluted, as the protagonist, Erasmo Aragón, debates whether to take up a doctor’s offer of hypnosis to uncover memories of the civil war that have been deeply buried for a reason, as he worries that if he does so, his political exile could become an existential one.

Horacio Castellanos Moya received the Manuel Rojas Prize (2014), awarded by the Chilean government to a fiction writer for his work over a career, among others. His exile has taken him to many places, including Frankfurt am Main. He now teaches at the University of Iowa in the United States.