[Readings] | The Moronic Inferno, by Horacio Castellanos Moya | Harper's Magazine

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The Moronic Inferno


From a new translation of Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador, a novel by Horacio Castellanos Moya. Moya, a Salvadoran writer, is the author of many books, including Senselessness and The Dream of My Return. Translated from the Spanish by Lee Klein.

Horrible how this city has grown, Moya, it already eats up half the volcano, it already eats up nearly half the green zones that surround it, the people here have the tremendous vocation of termites, they eat everything, one needs only to travel a couple of kilometers from San Salvador to realize that sooner or later this country will be an immense filthy city surrounded by equally filthy desert, Vega said, the city as it is right now is one of the filthiest and most hostile cities, a city designed for animals, not human beings, a city that converted its historical center into a garbage dump because no one was interested in history, they figured the historical center of the city was disposable, and therefore they converted it into a garbage dump, really a citywide dump, a disgusting city, intended for obtuse thieves whose only preoccupation is to destroy whatever architecture minimally suggests the past in order to construct Esso gas stations and hamburger joints and pizzerias. Tremendous, Moya, Vega said, San Salvador is a grotesque, inane, and stupid version of Los Angeles, populated by stupid people who only want to seem like the stupid people of Los Angeles, it is a city that demonstrates the congenital hypocrisy of its people, the hypocrisy they carry in their most intimate souls is that they want to become gringos, what they most desire is to become gringos, I swear, Moya, but they don’t accept that their most precious desire is to become gringos, because they’re hypocrites, and they’re capable of killing you if you criticize their disgusting Pilsener beer, their disgusting pupusas, their disgusting San Salvador, their disgusting country. Moya, they’re capable of killing you without blinking an eye, and yet they’re absolutely not interested in anything other than destroying their city and their country with infectious enthusiasm. It’s truly revolting, Moya. I can’t stand this city, I assure you, Vega said, it has all the miseries and filth of big cities and none of the virtues, it has all of the negatives of big cities and not one single basic positive, a city in which if you don’t have a car you’re screwed, because the public transportation is the most incredible thing that can be imagined, the buses are designed to transport livestock, not human beings, people are treated like they’re animals and no one protests, they spend their daily life being treated like animals, the only way they’re used to traveling by bus is if they’re treated like animals. It’s incredible, Moya, the drivers of these buses surely have been pathological criminals since they were born, salaried criminals who have been converted into bus drivers, Vega said, guys who without a doubt were torturers or who participated in massacres during the civil war and now have been recycled as bus drivers, from the moment a bus comes, to enter one is to realize you’ve put your life in the hands of a criminal who drives as fast as possible, who doesn’t respect stop signs or red lights or any sort of traffic signal, a lunatic whose sole goal is to end up with the highest number of lives in his hands in the shortest possible time, Vega said. It’s a terrorizing experience, Moya, an experience not recommended for cardiac patients, no one in their right mind could travel every day on a bus in this city, you would need to have a permanent and sadistic degradation of the spirit to be able to travel every day with these recycled criminals who drive the buses, I swear to you, Moya, by my own experience, I made two trips by bus soon after I arrived in this city, and it was enough to understand that a similar experience would destroy my nerves in a flash, it was enough to understand the level of degradation bus drivers subject the majority of the city to on a daily basis, Vega said. You, Moya, because you have a car you don’t know what I’m saying, surely you’ve never needed to travel by bus, surely it never would occur to you to get on a bus, even when your car is broken down it never would occur to you to get on a bus, you would prefer to pay for a taxi or ask some friend whether he could drive you where you want to go. The people in this city are divided between those who have a car and those who travel by bus, this is the most emphatic division, the most radical, Vega said, your income level or the area where you live doesn’t matter much, what is important is whether you have a car or travel by bus, Moya, it’s truly an infamy.

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