Any literary effort by David Slavitt is a complicated business for a reviewer. The complexity arises not immediately from the work itself, but from the prolific nature of Slavitt. To date, he is the author of 13 works of fiction, 14 books of poetry or translation, two books of nonfiction, at least eight pseudonymous novels, to say nothing of a steady stream of reviews and essays.
Unlike Anthony Burgess, with his A Clockwork Orange, or Vladimir Nabokov, with his LoZita, Slavitt has yet to write that one single work about which all the other books and writing can orbit. The result is that each new book has to be approached on its own, and it almost seems that the reviewer needs to recapitulate Slavitt's career in order to get at this one book. I am sure, one day, there will be someone who will make the connections, tie up the loose ends, and package up Mr. Slavitt. I cannot do that here.
Salazar Blinks concerns itself with modern Portugal just after longtime strongman Antonio Salazar suffers a paralyzing stroke. Because of the length of his rule and the need for some sort of continuity, the actual government of the day allowed the paralyzed Salazar to preside over a mock government. In the novel Salazar is watched and protected by his housekeeper, Dona Maria, who interprets his eye blinks when questions are posed to him by his sham ministers.
The book is narrated by a poet, Carlos. It seems...