Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

I, the Supreme is Roa Bastos’s second novel and his most widely acclaimed work. The author spent much of his life writing short stories and screenplays as well as an earlier novel, Hijo de hombre (1960; Son of Man, 1965), but this work clearly represents his artistic maturity.

Although it is contemporary to the major works of the Latin American “Boom” era of the 1960’s and 1970’s, it is not usually analyzed within that context. Instead, it is generally included within the tradition of the “dictator novel” that began in the 1930’s with the publication of Tirano Banderas (1926; The Tyrant, 1929) by the Spanish author Ramón del Valle-Inclán and El señor presidente (1946; The President, 1963) by the Guatemalan author Miguel Ángel Asturias. This genre focuses on the social, political, and even psychological consequences of dictatorship and its mechanisms for maintaining power, a phenomenon that, unfortunately, has been prevalent in Latin America since the wars of independence at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Many critics have considered I, the Supreme to be the culmination of this genre, along with two other novels in the same category that were published almost simultaneously: El recurso del método (1974; Reasons of State, 1976) by Alejo Carpentier and El otoño del patriarca (1975; The Autumn of the...

(The entire section is 491 words.)