‘The President’ is the depiction of life under the rule of a cruel and capricious dictator in a nameless South American country. There is an almost acrid atmosphere to the book, as Asturias lures you in with the lurid lives of the characters, from the Machiavellian, but ultimately tragic Angel Face, to the innocent Camilla who is caught up his web of deceit, to the dictator himself, a man consumed with paranoia and hatred.
The nightmarish tone of the novel is set in the opening chapter, which depicts a scene in which various tramps congregate in a church, one of whom ends up murdering a general and, thus setting in motion the events which take place during the book. This nightmarish atmosphere is reinforced throughout the book; from frequent description to the orangeade sky, to the constant stream of betrayals which the characters subject each other too, the people who populate the story are not so much humans as they are puppets dancing on the strings of the all-powerful dictator.
Not only is ‘The President’ a powerful and prescient depiction of life under a dictator, it is also an exploration of the ceaseless cruelty created by any tyrannically government and the meaningless sense of violence it perpetuates.