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I, the Supreme (1974)
I the Supreme imagines a dialogue between the nineteenth-century Paraguan dictator known as Dr. Francia and his secretary, Policarpo Patino. The opening pages present a sign that they had found nailed to the wall of a cathedral, purportedly written by Dr. Francia himself and ordering the execution of all of his servants upon his death. This sign is revealed to be a forgery, which takes the leader and his secretary into a larger discussion about the nature of truth and the fallibility of the written word. Their conversation broadens into an epic journey of the mind, stretching across the colonial history of their nation, filled with surrealist imagery and labyrithian turns. In a metafictional twist, the novel itself is revealed to be the work of a mysterious compiler, who interjects from time to time and calls attention to the fragile nature of the texts he is collecting (with some lines noted as unfinished, blotted out, or obscured). Darkly comic and deeply moving, I the Supreme is a profound, unflinching meditation on power and its abuse--and on the role of language in making and unmaking whole worlds.
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