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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Tyrant Banderas

Ramón del Valle-Inclán

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To purchase Tyrant Banderas

Title: Tyrant Banderas
Author: Ramón del Valle-Inclán
Genre: Novel
Written: 1926 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 200 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Tyrant Banderas - US
Tirano Banderas - US
Tyrant Banderas - UK
Tyrant Banderas - Canada
Tyrant Banderas - India
Tirano Banderas - France
Tyrann Banderas - Deutschland
Il tiranno Banderas - Italia
Tirano Banderas - España
  • Translated by Peter Bush
  • With an Introduction by Alberto Manguel
  • Previously translated as The Tyrant (1929) by Margarita Pavitt

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Our Assessment:

B+ : powerful writing and presentation

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Observer . 26/1/2013 J.S.Tennant

  From the Reviews:
  • "Tyrant Banderas was first published in 1926 and remains a masterpiece – now given a new lease of life in Peter Bush's excellent translation." - J.S.Tennant, The Observer

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Though Valle-Inclán was a Spanish author, he set Tyrant Banderas in Latin America and the book stands in the very long line of Latin American dictator-lit (to go along with the very long line of Latin American dictators that continue to inspire authors). It covers only a few days, as the dictator Banderas faces rebellion in his fictional fiefdom. Valle-Inclán presents his portrait of the dictator(ship) as a broad picture, showing the many parties involved and affected, from revolutionaries to prisoners to foreign diplomats -- most of whose lives are in some way determined by their relationship to the dictator (be it even only in violent opposition to everything he stands for).
       As Alberto Manguel notes in his brief Introduction:

     Tyrant Banderas is made out of fragments, snatches of dialogue, short scenes of action, but the patchwork effect is framed by a mathematically tight structure.
       It makes for an effective and powerful narrative -- as does Valle-Inclán's rich, descriptive language, which translator Peter Bush (who has also translated the similarly verbally rich work of Juan Goytisolo) seems to revel comfortably in. Valle-Inclán employs everything from the elaborately descriptive to rapid-fire dialogue to scenes of brief, cut action:
     The gendarmes slashed with their sabers. Flashing blades, screams, hands held high, bloodied faces. The lights convulsed and blacked out. The big top collapsed. Sharp-angled canvas. Cubist vision of the Harris circus.
       This is a world of great violence, as Banderas' tries to wipe out his opposition, but finds it is never-ending. The corpses of those he orders massacred bob in the ocean -- so many of them that even: "the sharks are glutted on the flesh of revolutionaries" -- but Banderas slaughters on.
       Valle-Inclán presents a wide variety of characters, from the Tyrant and his followers to the the various revolutionaries to philosophical prisoners (such as the one reading Famous Escapes, dreaming of his own). The powerful and decadent are beautifully pegged, such as one Spanish diplomat:
Bleary-eyed, stout, witless, and prattling, he exuded a saccharine sweetness. His hands and throat dripped flab; he parleyed with a French nasal twang; and his fleshy eyelids harbored gelid fantasies from perverse literature. He was a threadbare stuffed shirt, a literary snob, a dabbler in decadent salons redolent with the rites and catechisms of French poetasters.
       Even "the swan from Nicaragua", Rubén Darío (a strong influence on Valle-Inclán, Manguel suggests in his Introduction) has a cameo and weighs in on the situation.
       A striking portrait of true tyranny and the opposition to it -- and noteworthy for also taking into close account the roles of foreign powers and their representatives in affecting the situation -- Tyrant Banderas is a fascinating example of dictator-lit. Aside from the subject matter -- or along with, since it is part and parcel of it -- Valle-Inclán's language and presentation also particularly impress (and, as noted, translator Bush seems to fully enjoy himself in recreating the effects in English).
       Tyrant Banderas has held up very well for a nearly century-old work (helped by the fact that, though political, Valle-Inclán's concerns and focus remain far more on the universals), and it is surprising that it has only now been revived in English. Worthwhile.

- M.A.Orthofer, 26 July 2012

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Tyrant Banderas: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author and playwright Ramón del Valle-Inclán lived 1866 to 1936.

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© 2012-2021 the complete review

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