They Forged the Signature of God is an enthralling, if somewhat uneven, fictionalized account of the recent and tumultuous history of the Dominican Republic. The story follows three seminary students trying to divine their proper paths in life amid a social climate marked by political repression and instability. Virato Senciòn delivers an exacting take on his country's recent political history, and his book has become a bestseller in Latin America. They Forged the Signature of God received the Dominican Republic's National Fiction Award when it was first published, only to have the prize withdrawn when the sting of Senciòn's criticism grew too irritating to the ruling class.
It's almost impossible to discuss Dominican author Sencion's They Forged the Signature of God without first discussing the controversy surrounding it. Written in Spanish, it won the Dominican Republic's National Prize Novel Award in 1993, but its thinly disguised depiction of the country's recent Trujillo-Balaguer regime resulted in President Balaguer denouncing the writer. The prize was subsequently denied, a scandal ensued and this, Sencion's first book, became the bestselling novel in the history of the Dominican Republic. Sencion's style may at first appear reminiscent of other Spanish-speaking authors, but not only is his tale original, it's clever almost to a fault. They Forged the Signature of God follows the interwoven destinies of three young seminary students who move from overbearing Catholicism into the even more brutal world of Dominican politics. Narrated like a tangential, rambling story told by your grandfather, the twists and events of their lives lead to many entertaining, digressive tales about a host of other individuals. However, Sencion's depiction of a recent, barbaric past detracts from the vibrancy of these anecdotes, and unfortunately, in this story the political gives way to polemic. They Forged the Signature of God is a thorough, provoking novel, and though Sencion's fame may rest more with his activism than with his creativity, one can only hope that he continues to devote time and effort to the latter.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.