3 Novellas for Summer

Loud footsteps in a vast and otherwise silent corridor; the cloying perfume of lilacs; an ice-cold drink at the end of a hot, dry day.  In Winter we bundle-up, huddle inside and create a barrier between ourselves and the elements. Summer, though, is a different story. We open ourselves up to the full sensuality of the natural world – we wear less clothing, bask in the sun & surf, spend as much time out-of-doors as the weather allows.  Antonia Skármeta, Marie NDiaye and Haruki Murakami are writers who know the power of evoking the senses. Below are three novellas.  Small enough to read at the beach, while camping in the woods, or on a shady park bench.  And still broad enough in scope to provide a brief (and welcome) escape from the everyday.

ADistantFatherTitle:  A Distant Father
Author:  Antonio Skármeta
Translator:  John Cullen
Publisher:  Other Press, New York (2013)
ISBN:  978 159051625 6

I’m the village schoolmaster. I live near the mill. Sometimes the wind covers my face with flour.

I’ve got long legs, and nights of insomnia have stamped dark rings under my eyes.

My life is made up of rustic elements, rural things:  the dying wail of the local train, winter apples, the moisture on lemons touched by early  morning frost, the patient spider in a shadowy corner of my room, the breeze that moves my curtains.

During the day, my mother washes enormous sheets, and in the evening we drink lemon balm tea and listen to radio plays until the signal gets lost among the dozens of Argentine stations that crowd the dial at night.

A Distant Father by Antonio Skármeta is straightforward storytelling written in beautiful prose. Imagine a handmade diorama of a Chilean country village, populated by picaresque characters, that depicts a young man’s coming of age and you’ll have some idea of the rudimentary plot (and feel) of this charming 92 page novella. Our narrator, the young man, describes his father’s departure on the same train from which he disembarked on the day he returned home after completing his studies.  This estrangement, between his father and his family (the narrator and his mother) forms the central mystery meant to drive the plot.  But the characters are what truly move this story forward.  Skármeta has a talent for developing fully realized individuals on the page – allowing them their quirks and eccentricities while avoiding grotesque caricatures of life.  The result is delightful: moments of tenderness balanced by comedic episodes (usually revolving around the narrator’s attempts at getting laid).


SelfPortraitInGreenTitle:  Self-Portrait in Green
Author:  Marie NDiaye
Translator:  Jordan Stump
Publisher:  Two Lines Press, San Francisco (2014)
ISBN:  978 1 931883 39 9

I have a love-hate relationship to Marie NDiaye’s books. The savagery of NDiaye’s writing repels even as it entices me to keep reading… a bit like a venomous snake. The kind that mesmerizes its prey as it rears back to strike.  She is a challenging writer, but her readers and fans find her worth the effort her books demand.  Marie NDiaye stands easily among the most exciting and experimental writers being translated into English today.

… The schoolyard is empty, the sweet lilac has numbed me. I must have been one of those children the woman in green carted off down an endless hallway, but fear and the inescapability of the torments to come kept me from crying out. Was I ever seen again? It’s true that green can’t possibly be the sole color of cruelty, just as green is by no means inevitably the color of cruelty, but who can deny that cruelty is particularly given to draping itself in all sorts of greens? Before going on my way, I pull three leaves off the lilac and slip them into the pocket of my shorts. That might come in handy, I tell myself, though for the moment I have no idea what’s awaiting me.

Self-Portrait in Green is  a disturbing little book, filled with portraits of women connected to a narrator who we are led to assume is NDiaye herself.  I suppose it would be more accurate to describe it as a collection of linked short stories. Though the format feels more connected forming a unified, continuous narrative than you’d expect in a book of stories. And there is the fact that the paperback is exactly 7-inches tall, 4-1/2 inches wide and 103 pages long – “petite” is an adjective that springs to mind.

These women in green who appear in story after story are subversively feminist (as were their predecessors in All My Friends). The intensity with which they interact with the world and the reader is terrifying. They present as strangers, friends, mothers, lovers, daughters and wives.  They are strong, mysterious, neurotic, paranoid, nurturing, dominant, submissive, beautiful and grotesque.  They contradict each other and at times cancel each other out, yet the copy on the back cover tells us that “(t)hey are all aspects of the internationally celebrated writer Marie Ndiaye.”


TheStrangeLibraryTitle:  The Strange Library
Author:  Haruki Murakami
Translator:  Ted Goossen
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher, New York (2014)
ISBN: 978 0 385 35430 1

Haruki Murakami is a bona-fide international literary celebrity with a huge following. When that happens publishers are wont to rush to print anything – even random scribbles discovered on the back of a napkin. An argument could be made that The Strange Library is such a case.  It’s a remarkably slight book, dependent on the illustration/graphic design talents of Chip Kidd* to transform it into something more substantial.  Happily the collaboration is entirely successful.   Bright, beautiful, with a definite Zakka (a style of Japanese handicraft) influence – the book itself is an object to desire.  The story, narrated by a boy who discovers and is imprisoned within the labyrinthine basement of the strange library, is weird enough to meet the expectations of Murakami fans across the globe.  Of course, you’ll be finished with the entire book in 20 minutes – the slow, careful reader might stretch it out to a half hour – but sometimes good things really do come in small packages.

The library was even more hushed than usual.

My new leather shoes clacked against the gray linoleum. Their hard, dry sound was unlike my normal footsteps. Every time I get new shoes,it takes me a while to get used to their noise.

A woman was sitting at the circulation desk, reading a thick book. It was extraordinarily wide. She looked as if she were reading the right-hand page with her right eye, and the left-hand page with her left.

Murakami novels are often an assemblage of odd & uncomfortable, deceptively mundane, details – as demonstrated in the passage above. The narrator constantly remarks on the strangeness of the world he has stumbled into: the librarian’s strange eyes which read two pages at once, the awkward way in which the other characters speak, the size of the basement versus the footprint of the building & his ability to understand books despite their being written in Turkish (a language he does not speak). This mood/atmosphere of unease is established through direct explication. What information we are not told is simply not there – leaving an informational vacuum that is too substantial not to have been intentional. Perhaps this is because The Strange Library was targeted at children (albeit, in the way Grimm’s original Fairy Tales might have been targeted at children) and the legion of hardcore  fans. The Sheep Man, a character from Murakami’s earliest published writings makes an appearance. But, this “insider baseball” doesn’t detract from the book’s charm and shouldn’t deter the casual reader.  The Strange Library is a wonderful diversion into fantasy regardless of how you approach it – as a Murakami aficionado or amateur.

 

*The British version of the book is illustrated/designed by Suzanne Dean, the art director at Harvill Secker

 

We All Just Want To Be Literary Rock Stars: Reading Roberto Bolaño’s Distant Star

Title:  Distant Star

Author:  Roberto Bolaño

Translator:  Chris Andrews

Publisher:  New Directions, New York (2004)

 

Last weekend eight or ten books by Roberto Bolaño fell off a bookstore shelf and landed on my head.  Fortunately they were paperbacks.  But the not so subtle point was made that it was way past time for me to read Bolaño.  And so I picked-up a copy of Distant Star, shelved the rest and went home to read.  The following weekend I went back for Nazi Literature In the Americas.

Distant Star began life as the final chapter of Nazi Literature in the Americas. Bolaño, in a short introductory note, explains how his friend Arturo B. was unsatisfied with the story.  Arturo felt it should be longer and less dependent on the other stories in the collection; that “rather than mirror and explode the others, would be, in itself, a mirror and an explosion”. And so the two men spent “a month and a half in my house in Blanes, where, guided by his dreams and nightmares, we composed the present novel.  My role was limited to preparing refreshments, consulting a few books, and discussing the reuse of numerous paragraphs with Arturo and the increasingly animated ghost of Pierre Menard.”  The joke for those in the know: Arturo B. is Bolaño’s alter-ego.  Pierre Menard is a reference to the Borges short story – “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote“.

Primarily set in Chile and beginning in the year 1971 – two years before the military coup which unseated then President Allende and put General Augusto Pinochet in power for the next twenty-five years – Bolaño renders a tumultuous period in Chilean history for readers.  Events are described by a first person narrator; a struggling Chilean poet* who recalls how he spent the years leading up to the coup attending poetry workshops with his best friend Bibiano.  In one of these  workshops, led by the Bolshevik poet Juan Stein, our narrator and Bibiano meet the lovely and talented Garmendia twins.  It is in Stein’s workshop that they also first encounter Alberto Ruiz-Tagle, the man who we are told will “revolutionize Chilean poetry”.  Ruiz-Tagle, we eventually learn his real name is Carlos Wieder, becomes a life-long obsession for our narrator.  He is the  bogeyman at the center of the novel –  tied to random acts of terror perpetrated by the Pinochet regime.  Even after our narrator becomes an expat living in France he continues collecting information on Wieder, as well as the other poets he left behind (the poetry professor Stein and his rival workshop leader Soto, Bibiano and the doomed Garmendia twins). He makes only a token effort to sort fact from rumor.  Most of the information comes to him incomplete, in bits and pieces. You get the feeling he’s filling in the gaps, himself, as he goes.

What happened next is uncertain.  Soto lost himself in the cathedral or cosmic transmitter that is the Perpignan railway station.  Because of the time and the weather (it was winter), the station was almost empty despite the fact that the 1:00 a.m. train for Paris was about to leave. Most people were in the bar or the main waiting room. Soto, for some reason, perhaps he heard voices, went to look in another room, some way off.There he found three young neo-Nazis and a bundle on the ground.  The youths were diligently kicking the bundle. Soto froze on the threshold until he realized that the bundle was moving, when he saw first a hand and then an incredibly dirty arm emerging from the rags. The tramp shouted, Stop hitting me. It was a woman’s voice. But no one was listening, no one except the Chilean writer. Perhaps his eyes filled with tears, tears of self-pity, because something told him he had met his destiny. Now he wouldn’t have to chose between Tel Quel and the OuLiPo. For him, life had chosen the crime reports. In any case, he dropped his bag and the books at the door and approached the youths. Before the fight began he insulted them in Spanish. The harsh Spanish of southern Chile. The youths stabbed Soto and ran away.

There was a brief article in the Catalonian newspaper, but Bibiano told me all about it, in a very detailed letter, almost like a detective’s report. It was the last letter I received from him.

Then one day, without warning, a detective arrives at our narrator’s apartment and asks for his help in tracking down Wieder.  Bibiano had sent him.  He, of course, agrees to help. Continue reading “We All Just Want To Be Literary Rock Stars: Reading Roberto Bolaño’s Distant Star”

Navidad & Matanza by Carlos Labbé (translated from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden)

Navidad & MatanzaWhat kind of writer eviscerates his own novel?  What drives a person  to that extreme?  And – just so we’re clear – we’re not talking about paring down the prose or making a few surgical edits to tighten up the plot. Carlos Labbé rips out entire chapters of his book and leaves huge, gaping holes behind.  That takes guts. When it works it’s exciting and innovative.  And, yes, disturbing. When it doesn’t it’s frustrating and… well it’s frustrating.

There are two parallel narratives in Navidad & Matanza. The first, which opens and closes the book, is narrated by a journalist investigating the 1999 disappearance of the teenage son & daughter of a video game executive – Alicia & Bruno Vivar.  The Vivar family is fabulously wealthy.  And, if Domingo the journalist is to be believed, fabulously debauched. The youngest, fourteen year old Alicia, is the most jaded of the clan. Wise, as the saying goes, beyond her years.  Her education has been taken in hand by a much older “friend” of the family.  A Congolese theremin musician who goes by the name of Boris Real.  Domingo’s pet theory is that Real is linked to the siblings disappearance.  But it is only one of his many theories. He is constantly revisiting and re-imagining moments and scenarios; gathering first hand accounts from men and women who were witnesses to crucial events.

Domingo’s obsession with Alicia & Bruno’s disappearance is, perhaps, too personal.  His speculations on what could have happened – and on the daily lives of the brother & sister before they vanished – are exercises in voyeuristic fantasy.  Domingo displays all the tell-tale signs of an unreliable narrator. There’s obviously more going on here than the reader is privy to; Labbé manipulates us until we’re desperate to see those missing chapters. And yet the narrative remains solid despite their omission.

The man from the service station accompanied Alicia to the beach, walking two steps behind her for several kilometers through the night. She asked many questions and he answered them, aware all the time of the cash he’d make housing this strange group of people for a few days. Afterward everything would be calm and normal again. That’s what he believed, he said. But it wasn’t so. Every once in a while the girl would yell: Right? Left? And now, which way? It was like she was walking with her eyes closed, like she wanted to be guided in the darkness.  Then all of a sudden the sound of the sea was very near. When the sand and docas came into view, Alicia started to run.  Rising up from down below he heard a shrill, sharp sound. At first it seemed to him that a woman was screaming. The he though someone was doing something bad to the young girl. He quickened his pace across the beach. The night was moonless, and there were no streetlamps in the town, and so he was barely able to make out two distant silhouettes approaching the water. Little by little the shrill sound turned into a birdsong, into the gurgle of an immense stomach, and finally into a strange music. “A female robot, singing with her mouth shut in the shower,” that’s how Patrice Dounn’s theremin sounded to the man from the service station. The foreigner was standing on a dune, an open case beside him – a different case, not the one he’d opened in the kitchen – his left hand suspended above a strange gleaming, blue instrument. The other hand, the right hand, moved slowly toward and away from the object. The music was very beautiful.

The insertion of a second narrative complicates the story.   Domingo, we learn, is a test subject in an experiment.  He and six others are housed in an underground laboratory and administered a drug called hadon, making them fearful and prone to violence. They play the “novel-game” to pass the time;  writing and exchanging chapters, they all contribute to the plot of a single story.  They are writing the Vivar family history. Domingo is one of them.  Not only a character in the story; he is a writer.  Not just imagining scenarios as we suspected in the first narrative; but authoring them in the second.

Will Vanderhyden translation provides two separate styles for the two separate narratives in Navidad & Mantanza.  The portion set in the “real world’ is written in lush, sultry prose. In the emails that comprise the novel-game the prose is emptier, cleaner and more clinical. The missing chapters are even more keenly felt (is that possible?) because there is so little to go on – no landscapes, no physical descriptions or a sense of time.  Just excerpts from a correspondence, given without a context to place them in.

And yet the mind naturally reaches out to fill in the blanks left by those missing chapters, like water will fill crevices in rock. Not at first, but in the weeks afterwards I began to take ownership of Domingo’s and Labbé’s story, making my own assumptions on what was going on. Adding to and shaping the plot all on my own.  Until suddenly I realized I’d joined the game. That I’d become another player. A neat trick.

 

Publisher: Open Letter Books, New York (2014)
ISBN: 978 1 934824 92 4

 

 

The Days of the Rainbow by Antonio Skármeta & the film NO

The art on the cover had me expecting to read about a more grass-roots, Banksy-esque graffiti driven campaign. This is not the case. Still, it’s a great cover.

In 1988 Chilean President and General Augusto Pinochet, after a 14-year dictatorship that began with the 1974 military coup which deposed then President Salvador Allende and in an attempt to legitimize his regime in the eyes of Western governments, called for a plebiscite.  Citizens of Chile would vote – Yes or No – to Pinochet.  “Yes” for Pinochet to remain in power and “No” for free elections.  Overcoming the public’s fear of instability, unifying the disparate political parties of the left and withstanding government intimidation the “No” campaign miraculously won. The Days of the Rainbow is Antonio Skármeta’s fictional account of the making of that historic No! campaign.  The film NO by Chilean director Pablo Larraín is an adaptation of Skármeta’s unpublished play El Plebiscito, on the same subject.

These are works of historical fiction.  The book and film  not only stray from the historical record – they differ significantly from each other.  The Days of the Rainbow (the novel) features two protagonists.  The first, Adrían Bettini, is a well-respected but unemployed ad executive who has been blacklisted by the Pinochet government.  He is middle-aged, happily married with an 18-year old daughter.  At the beginning of the book Bettini is approached by representatives from both the Yes! and No! and asked to head their respective campaigns.  He, of course, chooses the No!

The second protagonist is Bettini’s daughter’s boyfriend, Nico Santos, who provides a first person narrative to his version of events.  In the opening pages Nico’s father, a high school philosophy teacher, is arrested and disappears like thousands of others detained by the Pinochet government.  These disappearances had become so commonplace that his father (who Nico refers to as Professor Santos as he is also his teacher) had discussed the possibility with Nico – dividing it into two possible scenarios.

… Professor Santos and I had foreseen this situation.

We had even given it a name:  We called it the Baroque situation.  If they took Daddy prisoner in front of witnesses, that meant they couldn’t make him vanish like they did to other people, people who are put in a bag with stones and are thrown into the ocean from a helicopter.  There are thirty-five students in my class and we all saw with our own eyes that they took my father.  He says that that’s an optimal situation, because they won’t kill him.  In cases like this, he’s protected by the witnesses.

According to the Baroque plan, when they take Daddy prisoner I have to make two phone calls to two numbers I learned by heart, although I don’t know the names of the people who are going to answer.  Then I have to keep living a normal life, going home, playing soccer, going to the movies with Patricia Bettini, going to school as usual, and at the end of the month, I have to go to the treasurer’s office to pick up his paycheck…

… If they had made my father disappear without any witnesses, we would be facing the Barbarian syllogism, and I would’ve probably died already of sadness.

After Professor Santos is taken Patricia and Nico are instrumental in helping Patricia’s father develop the No! campaign.  They help Bettini to understand that he needs to incorporate joy, laughter and even silliness for the No! to succeed.  The Days of the Rainbow is a completely engaging novel, easy to get lost in.  The prose, translated by Mery Botbol, is light and simple as is the story.  Young love, silliness, good overcoming evil, hope – all of these are present.  Like Robert Ampuero’s The Neruda Case (which would pair nicely with The Days of the Rainbow) the goal here is as much to entertain as to educate.

NO (the film) has an entirely different cast of characters.  The daughter and Santos family are absent.  Bettini is replaced by the much younger and hipper René.  René is a successful (and employed) advertising executive.  He rides a skateboard, is a single father, and has an estranged wife who is repeatedly arrested for protesting against the Pinochet government.  While there are references to disappearances, no one attached to the main characters is made to disappear.  The film focuses on the marketing aspect of the No! campaign – the filming of the television spots and the attempts to intimidate the team behind them.  Larraín chose to film it in a retro style which captures the washed out colors of 1970’s films.  It is lovely and evocative.  There’s very little background noise in the scenes, creating a sense of stillness that feels like being trapped in the eye of the storm.  The overall tone is definitely much darker than The Days of the Rainbow and the stakes feel much higher with René constantly looking over his shoulder in fear.   In one scene René’s boss, a man named Guzman who is a Pinochet supporter, meets with a government official in a plaza.  The Minister asks him “Who are these people running the No! campaign?  Who are these people I never heard of them?” “People to relaxed for my liking, minister.”  “Be careful with what you say Guzman.  If I open that door you have to close your eyes.”

The character of Guzman fills the same role as the random government official who initially approaches Bettini to work for the Yes! campaign in The Days of the Rainbow.  He is both friend and enemy , and a far more complicated character than our heroes Bettini, Nico and René.  Opportunistic is to crude a way to characterize Guzman’s and the official’s motivations.  Pragmatic too kind.

The Atlantic has a wonderful interview of Genaro Arriagada, the true head of the No! campaign.  Arriagada discusses the inaccuracies between the film and actual events. He does so without malice or censure.  As in everything in life, authors writing historical fiction must pick their battles.  The facts (for example – neither book or film mention that American consultants were involved in running focus groups that resulted in the campaign slogan “Joy is coming”) are subjugated and characters merged and simplified to illustrate larger ideas the author wishes to express.  We, as readers, must accept that for Skármeta the individuals involved are not so important as what the movement meant to Chile.  And that different mediums require different formulas. It’s not surprising that the book, the film and the facts do not entirely line up. I’d argue that the similarities rather than the differences in the two interpretations Skármeta has given us serve to highlight what truly matters: the plebiscite as a historic event; that  hope for a future without Pinochet was marketed to the Chilean public as a product (like a brand of soda or a microwave); and most importantly, that when the Chilean plebiscite was over those who voted Yes! and those who voted No! went back to their joint lives without incident.  The results stood.  There were no riots or (as far as I my research went) retaliations.  Those who were in power adapted and adopted the platforms necessary to remain in positions of power regardless of regime change.  Everyone else went back to their daily lives.

Democracy in action.  A government changes without too much disruption to anyone’s day-to-day life.  Even the politicians’. In 1989 Patricio Aylwin, who had opposed President Allende once upon a time, won the election and became Chile’s new president.  In 1990 Pinochet stepped down but remained Commander-In-Chief of the Army for eight more years.  Despite the overall upbeat tone of the book and the “thriller” character of film, Skármeta isn’t afraid to show some cynicism.  And why not?  We are talking about politics.

Publisher:  Other Press, New York (2013)
ISBN:  978 159051627 0

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The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero (Carolina De Robertis, translator & Robertson Dean, narrator)

The Neruda Case is the first book by Chilean author Roberto Ampuero to be translated into English.  It’s in actuality the sixth book of his popular crime series featuring the Cuban private detective Cayetano Brule.  It isn’t unusual for books in a series to be translated out of order – but I always find it unsettling.  In this particular instance, though, The Neruda Case isn’t only a good place to introduce English readers to Detective Brule – it is also the most logical.  The story opens with Brule remembering his first case and how he stumbled into his particular and (in the world outside of novels) uncommon career path.  Pushed by none other than the Nobel Laureate and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

Introducing a historical figure into a fictional world is always risky.  Having him or her interact with fictional characters in a believable way is challenging.  Sometimes it works… but more often it doesn’t.  We’ve all seen it tank an otherwise good book.  Because too often the tendency is to use a real person to fill a predetermined spot on the author’s dramatis personae.  Without an authentic relationship between the novel and biography the character becomes flat, homogenous and a caricature of the real man or woman with whom we’re all familiar.

Ampuero’s portrayal of Pablo Neruda is none of those things.  It is, simply, perfect.  He is a man  aware of, obsessed with even, his legacy.  He loves women, yet uses them mercilessly.  They are no more, no less, than fuel for his mythos he has spent a lifetime creating.  Nowhere is this more apparent (and distasteful) than when Ampuero has Neruda speak of the daughter he abandoned.  There’s an underlying note of enjoyment, self-indulgence, in the way Neruda expresses his shameful behavior towards his own blood.

At the other end of the spectrum are Neruda’s interactions with Cayetano Brule.  These are comfortable, masculine, with all the poet’s considerable charisma at work … but there is a sense that even here Neruda is playing a part.  His poetic flights during their conversations come across as both sincere and (just a bit) practiced.  As a three-dimensional character he works on every level.  And Robertson Dean’s narration on the audio version – using a slow, raspy and surprisingly playful voice for the poet – adds yet another dimension to the complicated poet.  He succeeds in bringing Neruda completely to life.  Like Daniel Day-Lewis embodied Lincoln, Dean’s Neruda will forever be the voice of the poet for me.

Ampuero’s Neruda is so good that his hero, poor Cayetano, is overshadowed.  This would be my one criticism of The Neruda Case.  But it’s a small one.  Ultimately, Brule has five other novels in which to win readers over – and Neruda had only this one.

There’s an international flavor to this novel which I’ve read plays throughout the entire series.  The mystery which propels the plot simultaneously propels detective Brule around the globe – following breadcrumbs through Chile, East Germany and Cuba.  All of this occurs against the cultural backdrop of the 1973 Chilean coup d’état.  (10-Second History Lesson:  Salvador Allende became president of Chile in 1970 by democratic election.  He moved the country towards Communism – a position backed by Castro’s Cuba and the Soviets, but viewed with outright hostility by the U.S.  The resulting military coup led to Allende’s death and Augusto Pinochet’s subsequent brutal regime).  It’s a fascinating piece of history that is woven seamlessly into the overarching plot.

(Which is another reason why this was a good place to introduce Ampuero to English readers.  The Neruda Case may be a mystery and an origin story for Detective Brule, but it’s the Chilean history and the depiction of the poet in all his guises – even revolutionary –  that really sells this novel and makes it work as a standalone book).

The plot of this novel forms a roadmap of Roberto Ampuero’s life.  His father’s name was Robert Ampuero Brule.  He (the author) was a member of the Communist party as a young man, left Chile after the coup d’état, spent time in East Germany studying Communism, and then in Cuba.  Ampuero’s life and travels are obviously the basis for the route Cayetano Brule follows as he pieces together The Neruda Case. A wise decision on his part, it allows Ampuero to provide an authentic experience.  He describes places he’s visited, spent time in.  Many of Brule’s experiences and opinions seem to be Brule’s own.  In an afterward to the novel Ampuero even reveals that Neruda was his neighbor as a child (though he was never able to summon the courage to knock on the famous poet’s door).

I wrote earlier that introducing a historical character into a fictional world is risky.  Roberto Ampuero calculated the risk and discovered how to beat the odds.  The Neruda Case succeeds because he didn’t stop with Neruda but included multiple layers of biography:  Pablo Neruda, Chile’s and his own.  If anyone knows when English readers will be treated to – and it is a treat – more of the dynamic duo of Ampuero and Brule please let us know in the comments.  So far I’ve been unable to find which book is slated to be translated next.

Note:  Riverhead is releasing The Neruda Case in paperback this June.  For those who can’t wait the hardcover and audio version (which I strongly recommend) are available now.

Publisher:  Riverhead Trade, New York (June, 2013)
ISBN:  978 1594 63147 4

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