Dead Man’s Voice

Jeremy Harding

  • BuyThe Dictator’s Last Night by Yasmina Khadra, translated by Julian Evans
    Gallic, 199 pp, £7.99, October 2015, ISBN 978 1 910477 13 7

‘I am not a dictator,’ the hero of Yasmina Khadra’s latest novel assures himself as his end approaches. ‘I am the uncompromising sentinel, the she-wolf protecting her little ones … the untameable jealous tiger that urinates on international conventions to mark his territory.’ Not long afterwards we find him stumbling through a field as his jubilant enemies close in. The Dictator’s Last Night is the latest addition to a line of fiction – the dictator novel – that has its origins in 19th-century Argentina. Latin American novelists have continued the tradition and some have taken the consequences. Yo el Supremo, based on a historical figure – the ‘sole consul’ of Paraguay – who died in 1840, was the work of the Paraguayan novelist Augusto Roa Bastos, written during a thirty-year exile in Argentina. Alfredo Stroessner, Paraguay’s dictator at the time, took offence when the book was published and announced that the author could never return home. (Roa Bastos ended his days as a celebrity in Asunción; Stroessner ended his in exile in Brazil.)

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