The Salvadoran Civil War was a twelve year affair. When it ended in early 1992, around an estimated 70-80 thousand people had died. Starting with a coup, the two sides fought for power for over a decade before it ended with the signing of Chapultepec Peace Accords. Author Horacio Castellanos Moya, born in Honduras, but raised in El Salvador, returned to his home country at the tail end of that civil war to work as a journalist. Much like his real life, this is the plot of his newest translated novel, The Dream of My Return where a journalist finally goes back to his home country of El Salvador after the civil war dies down and he decides to finally split with his wife.
The story starts with the title character, an unnamed journalist who’s suffering from a pain in his liver. Unlike the narrator from Notes From The Underground, our narrator seeks help in a doctor named Don Chente he hears about from his relative named Muñecon. The journalist has seen a doctor for this liver pain in the past, but that doctor is no longer servicing patients and the pain is just too much to bear. So he reluctantly starts seeing Chente, only to have the good doctor cure his pain quickly, but then suggest additional hypnotherapy. The journalist is weary at this suggestion at first. How could hypnosis help his liver pain? He refuses at first, but later relents knowing the good doctor originally cured his liver pain. Meanwhile, the journalist is moving along with his plans to return to his home country of El Salvador. The civil war there is finally dying down and he is dying to return home; relations with his wife aren’t great so he justifies leaving to pursue his career there. Only when Don Chente disappears right before he must leave for El Salvador does the journalist worry that he might have said something incredibly incriminating during one of his sessions with Chente. This turns into a pursuit in which he will stop at nothing to find out whether or not he incriminated himself under hypnosis.
Much like many of Moya’s previous novels, The Dream of My Return is another fantastic story wrapped up in form of a short novel. Moderately autobiographical, Moya’s newest work presents us with a narrator that’s not entirely reliable, as his paranoia drives his motivation throughout the novel. As the narrators paranoia intensifies, the story in turn becomes more passionate with feelings of the Salvadoran Civil War injected at every possible turn. The journalist very much wants to return to his home country of El Salvador, but he worries he might be persecuted for his journalistic writings about the war. What starts as a simple man wanting to return to his home country, soon turns into a tirade of self doubt and worry about what might happen if his dream finally comes true.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 – Moya scores positive with another of his trademark short novels. Self doubt and paranoia rule this story, but in the end it’s the narrators passion for life that wins out.