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About the author
Ramón del Valle-Inclán (1866–1936) was born into an impoverished aristocratic family in a rural village in Galicia, Spain. Obedient to his father’s wishes, he studied law in Compostela, but
after his father’s death in 1889 he moved to Madrid to work as a journalist and critic. In 1892 Valle-Inclán traveled to Mexico, where he remained for more than a year. His first book of stories came out in Spain in 1895. A well-known figure in the cafés of Madrid, famous for his spindly frame, cutting wit, long hair, longer beard, black cape, and single arm (the other having been lost after a fight with a critic), Valle-Inclán was celebrated as the author of Sonatas: The Memoirs of the Marquis of Bradomín, which was published in 1904 and is considered the finest novel of Spanish modernismo, as well as for his extensive and important career in the theater, not only as a major twentieth-century playwright but also as a director and actor. He reported from the western front during World War I, and after the war he developed an unsettling new style that he dubbed esperpento—a Spanish word that means both a grotesque, frightening person and a piece of nonsense—and described as a search for “the comic side of the tragedy of life.” Partly inspired by his second visit to Mexico in 1920, when the country was in the throes of revolution, Tyrant Banderas is Valle-Inclán’s greatest novel and the essence of esperpento.
Peter Bush is an award-winning translator who lives in Barcelona. Among his recent translations are Juan Goytisolo’s Níjar Country and Teresa Solana’s A Shortcut to Paradise. He is currently translating Quim Monzó’s A Thousand Morons and Josep Pla’s The Gray Notebook (forthcoming from NYRB Classics).
Alberto Manguel is an Argentinian-born Canadian essayist and novelist. He has written twenty works of criticism, including The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (with Gianni Guadalupi), A History of Reading, and The Library at Night; edited more than twenty literary anthologies; and is the author of five novels, including News from a Foreign Country Came, which won the McKitterick Prize in 1992. An Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), he has also been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.
An NYRB Classics Original
The first great twentieth-century novel of dictatorship, and the avowed inspiration for García Márquez’s The Autumn of the Patriarch and Roa Bastos’s I, the Supreme, Tyrant Banderas is a dark and dazzling portrayal of a mythical Latin American republic in the grip of a monster. Ramón del Valle-Inclán, one of the masters of Spanish modernism, combines the splintered points of view of a cubist painting with the campy excesses of 19th-century serial fiction to paint an astonishing picture of a ruthless tyrant facing armed revolt.
It is the Day of the Dead, and revolution has broken out, creating mayhem from Baby Roach’s Cathouse to the Harris Circus to the deep jungle of Tico Maipú. Tyrant Banderas steps forth, assuring all that he is in favor of freedom of assembly and democratic opposition. Meanwhile, his secret police lock up, torture, and execute students and Indian peasants in a sinister castle by the sea where even the sharks have tired of a diet of revolutionary flesh. Then the opposition strikes back. They besiege the dictator’s citadel, hoping to bring justice to a downtrodden, starving populace.
Peter Bush’s new translation of Valle-Inclán’s seminal novel, the first into English since 1929, reveals a writer whose tragic sense of humor is as memorably grotesque and disturbing as Goya’s in his The Disasters of War.
New York Review Books
; August 2012
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Title: Tyrant Banderas
Author: Ramon Del Valle-Inclan; Peter Bush; Alberto Manguel
In the press
“Valle-Inclán had the sensitivity to capture the essential quality of life in my unhappy, comic, and beautiful country, and his Tyrant Banderas remains one of the most moving books about Mexico."—Diego Rivera
“An erotic, anarchic and Galician poet of the grotesque.” —Michael Billington, Guardian
“Because dictators have been a staple of Latin history, they’re a staple of the Latin novel. Spaniard Ramon del Valle-Inclán broke ground in 1926 with Tirano Banderas.” —The Miami Herald
“The radical innovation in the theater that came after World War I is known here mainly through the plays of Brecht. In Spain, the prophet of this new movement was Ramón del Valle-Inclán.... Written in 1920, Divinas Palabras actually precedes Brecht’s agitprop dramas.” —The New York Times
“It is a dark, violent, gorey work whose unbridled lyricism cannot mask its many horrors. . . . Tirano Banderas, which Valle-Inclán wrote in his 20s, is Cubist in that its writing is highly fragmented, while its range of deep, intense colours is reminiscent of Goya. But its main characteristic is esperpento, a genre created by Ville-Inclan himself. Esperpento is a mixture of terror and comedy, in which a character from tragedy is reduced to the dimensions of a fairground huckster. Tirano Banderas is a farce written with a poisoned pen.” —Manchester Guardian Weekly
“Tirano Banderas was the first novel to describe a South American dictator. It was written before other authors, such as Asturias and Garcia Marquez. . . . All the horrible things describe in the novel are still a very real threat in present day Latin America.” —Lautaro Murua, Argentinian actor