Since the journalist-narrator of Salvador is so often at a loss for words, since the time-honored practices of her trade seem so often to fail her in this alien territory, it is fitting that the word “ineffable” appears so frequently in this disturbing book. Didion seems constantly unable to “report” this story in conventional terms, for the rules keep changing and the lines are not clearly drawn. “Objectivity” seems impossible. The “gringa” writer well-known for her 1975 essay “On the Mall” writes of a visit to San Salvador’s largest shopping mall:This was a shopping center that embodied the future for which El Salvador was presumably being saved, and I wrote it down dutifully, this being the kind of “color” I knew how to interpret, the kind of inductive irony, the detail that was supposed to illuminate the story. As I wrote it down I realized that I was no longer much interested in this kind of irony, that this was a story that would not be illuminated by such details, that this was a story that would perhaps not be illuminated at all, that this was perhaps even less a “story” than a true noche obscura [dark night].
Elsewhere, Didion writes of a dinner meeting with the grandson of a former El Salvadoran dictator, that for the “first time in my life . . . I had been in the presence of obvious ‘material’ and felt no professional exhilaration at all, only personal dread.” The professional journalist is...
(The entire section is 1582 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Salvador Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!