An innovative and invigoratingly twisted piece of art.

The Village Voice

A Rainmaker Translation Grant Winner from the Black Mountain Institute: Senselessness, acclaimed Salvadoran author Horacio Castellanos Moya’s astounding debut in English, explores horror with hilarity and electrifying panache.


Fiction by Horacio Castellanos Moya

Translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver

A boozing, sex-obsessed writer finds himself employed by the Catholic Church (an institution he loathes) to proofread a 1,100 page report on the army’s massacre and torture of thousands of indigenous villagers a decade earlier, including testimonies of the survivors. The writer’s job is to tidy it up: he rants “that was what my work was all about, cleaning up and giving a manicure to the Catholic hands that were piously getting ready to squeeze the balls of the military tiger.” Publishers Weekly calls Senselessness a “crushing satire,” remarking, “It’s Moya’s genius to make this difficult character seem a product of the same death and disorder documented in the report, as the survivors’ voices merge with his own;” and Russell Banks writes, “This is a brilliantly crafted moral fable, as if Kafka had gone to Latin America for his source materials. I’ve not read anything quite like it. Clearly, Castellanos Moya is a major writer who deserves a wide audience in the U.S.” Roberto Bolaño called Castellanos Moya “the only writer of my generation who knows how to narrate the horror, the secret Vietnam that Latin America was for a long time.” He also said about his work, “nationalists of all stripes can’t stand it. Its sharp humor, not unlike a Buster Keaton film or a time bomb, threatens the fragile stability of imbeciles who, when they read the book, have an uncontrollable desire to hang the author in the town square. I can’t think of a higher honor for a writer.”

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Horacio Castellanos Moya

El Salvadoran writer and journalist

An innovative and invigoratingly twisted piece of art.

The Village Voice

Riveting and hilarious.

—Francisco Goldman

Like Kafka on amphetamines.

The Believer

A welcome eye-opening addition to this new literature of the Latin American nightmare.

—Anderson Tepper, Timer Out New York

Castellanos Moya has turned anxiety into an art form and an act of rebellion, and redeemed paranoia as a positive indicator of rot.

—Natasha Wimmer, The Nation


—Junot Diaz

Acid humor, like a Buster Keaton movie or a time bomb.

—Roberto Bolaño

A brilliantly crafted moral fable, as if Kafka had gone to Latin America for his source materials

—Russell Banks

There are a lot of great one word descriptions that come to mind when I consider Horacio Castellanos Moya’s new novel Senselessness. Among them are driven, compelling, wrenching, and paranoid. The one that seems best, however, is fevered, as this sums up perfectly the pitch at which this brilliant and devastating novel spins out. Senselessness is a painful and demanding book. It’s also incredibly beautiful, and in a way, emblematic at the deepest levels of what the response of any human being––with all his or her foibles––might be under such terrible duress.

—Chris Faatz,