The Secret History of Costaguana feels more like oral history than fiction, as the first-person narrator José Altamirano describes the events that led up to his disclosure of his country's history to Joseph Conrad. The premise of the novel is a clever one: when José Altamirano realizes that he has been duped by Joseph Conrad (who steals Altamirano's life story to create a novel) Altamirano fights back, offering his own version of historical events. His "version" is the novel A Secret History of Costaguana. Here, fiction reflects real life; Joseph Conrad did write a Latin American novel called Nostromo, which Vásquez declares is "the best novel written about Latin America outside of the Spanish language." Still, despite his literary talent, Conrad did not write the story well enough and - here enters the storytelling - José Altamirano will put the record straight.
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