Surrealpolitik: El Senor Presidente

Author: Miguel Angel Asturias

New York: Atheneum (1980, first published in 1946)

Quick Summary

Often cited as an early example of magic realism, but to me it seems more like straight-up surrealism: dreamlike, black humour, anti-fascist, crime and terror, and paranoia. It ticks all the boxes. Poetic, beautiful, horrifying. It's hard to describe but it maintains a comic tone or a comic form somehow while not being the least bit funny -- it is the blackest of black comedies.


There are 12 quotes currently associated with this book.

The blood-red juice of dawn was staining the edges of the funnel of mountains encircling the town, as it lay like a crust of scurf in the plain. The streets were tunnels of shadows, through which the earliest workmen were setting out like phantoms in the emptiness of a world that was created anew every morning... (page 18)
Tags: [Surrealism, Literary/Poetic]
Half in the world of reality, half in a dream, the Zany ran on, pursued by dogs and by spears of fine rain. (page 19)
Tags: [Surrealism, Lead Quote Candidate, Literary/Poetic, Dreams, Madness, Paranoia]
The steel finger-nails of fever were clawing at his forehead. Dissociation of ideas. A fluctuating world seen in a mirror. Fantastic disproportion. Hurricane of delirium. Vertiginous flight, horizontal, vertical, oblique, newly-born and dead in a spiral... (page 20)
Tags: [Surrealism, Literary/Poetic]
Angel Face took no notice of these festive preparations. He had to see the general and make plans for his flight. Everything seemed easy until the dogs began barking at him in the monstrous wood which separated the President from his enemies, a wood made up of trees with ears which responded to the slightest sound by whirling as if blown by a hurricane. Not the tiniest noise for miles around could escape the avidity of those millions of membranes. The dogs went on barking. A network of invisible threads, more invisible than telegraph wires, connected every leaf with the President, enabling him to keep watch on the most secret thoughts of the townspeople. (page 39)
Tags: [Surrealism, Fascism, Literary/Poetic, Paranoia, Surveillance]
"[T]his is my lucky night, I tell you, this is my lucky night!"

And by dint of repeating these words in a piercing tone, increasing in shrillness each time, he [Rodas] seemed to transform the night into a black tambourine decorated with gold bells; to be shaking hands with invisible friends in the wind, and inviting the puppet-master of the Cathedral Porch and his marionettes to come and tickle his throat till he burst out laughing. He laughed and he laughed, and tried out a few dance steps with his hands in his waistcoat pockets, and then his laugh suddenly died and became a groan and his happiness turned to pain. He doubled up to protect his mouth against his stomach's revolt. He was suddenly silent. His laughter hardened in his mouth like the plaster dentists use for their models. He had caught sight of the Zany. (page 49)
Tags: [Surrealism, Literary/Poetic]
Immediately after the pistol shots, the Zany's yells and the flight of Vasquez and his friend, the streets ran one after the other, all scantily clad in moonlight, and not knowing what had happened, while the trees in the square twisted their fingers together in despair because they could not announce the event either by means of the wind or the telephone wires. The streets arrived at the crossroads and asked one another where the crime had taken place, and then some hurried to the centre of the town and others to the outskirts, as if disorientated. (page 51)
Tags: [Surrealism, Surrealism & Politics, Literary/Poetic]
Don Benjamin was hardly three feet tall and as slender and hairy as a bat; it was impossible for him to see what was interesting the groups of people and police over the shoulders of Doña Benjamin, a woman of colossal build, who required two seats in the tram (one for each buttock) and more than eight yards of material for a dress. (page 53)
Tags: [Surrealism, Humor, Literary/Poetic]
The puppet-master spat green, purple, orange and every other colour. While he was kicking his wife's chest and stomach, four drunken men were crossing the far side of the square carrying the Zany's body on a stretcher. Doña Venjamon crossed herself. The public urinals wept for the dead man, and the wind made a noise like the wings of turkey-buzzards in the pale dusty-colored trees in the park. (page 53)
Tags: [Surrealism, Literary/Poetic]
Hitherto the marionettes had only laughed, or if they wept it had been with smiling grimaces and without the eloquence given by the tears now trickling down their cheeks and falling in streams on to the stage which had been the scene of so many cheerful farces.

Don Benjamin thought that the painful element in the drama would make the children cry, and his surprise knew no bounds when he saw them laugh more heartily than before, with wide open mouths and happy expressions. The sight of tears made the children laugh. The sight of blows made the children laugh...However, the little puppet went on for a long time using the device with the syringe, and making the marionettes cry to amuse the children. (page 53-54)
Tags: [Humor, Literary/Poetic, Crime/Noir]
An eye was travelling over the fingers of his right hand like the circle of light from an electric bulb. From the little finger to the middle finger, thence to the ring finger, from ring finger to index, from index to thumb. An eye...A single eye. He could feel it throbbing. He tried to crush it by closing his hand hard, till his nails sank into his flesh. But it was impossible; when he opened his hand, there it was again on his fingers, no bigger than a bird's heart and more horrifying than Hell. Beads of hot sweat, like beef broth, broke out on his forehead. Who was looking at him with this eye, which rested on his fingers and jumped about like the ball of a roulette wheel to the rhythm of a funeral knell? (page 57-58)
Tags: [Surrealism, Literary/Poetic, Crime/Noir]
A strange wind was blowing across the plain of his silence, where a wild vegetation was growing, as thirsty as tearless eyelashes, as thirsty as prickly cactuses, as thirsty as trees unrefreshed by rain. What was the meaning of this desire? Why should trees be thirsty when it rains? (page 70)
Tags: [Surrealism, Lead Quote Candidate, Literary/Poetic]
For Camila all this was either a game or a nightmare; it couldn't, no, it simply couldn't be true; what was happening, happening to her, happening to her father, couldn't be true. (page 72)
Tags: [Fascism, Literary/Poetic]