Saturday, April 30, 2011

Red April - Santiago Roncagliolo

21st century Latin American literature will be known for the new genre of writers who excel in modern literary thrillers. Red April, in the news again for nominated to the 'best translated works' is one catching attention among the readers all over the world. Having read Soldan ( turing's delirium) recently, I guess the new age writers may be moving away in style and substance from the boom generation of yesteryear. The period is 2000,in the new century, past the peak of Maoist insurgency and the regime of Alberto Fujimori ( 80s and 90s killing nearly 70000 people in Peru) , Set in the provincial city of Ayachuco, this murder mystery, crime thriller from the young Peruvian writer is already a super hit in the international market.

Associate District Prosecutor Félix Chacaltana Saldívar , is transferred to Ayachuco, on his request to be in the place of his mother. He is recently separated with his wife and the only emotional support is from his dead mother, whose memory he keep alive, rebuilding the room as he remembered during his young days. Asked to investigate some unnatural murders in Ayachuco, he immediately realises that there aren't many who shares his interest in the same. Unable to get support from the police or from the surgeon , he decides to find his way to the story. He suspect and find hits about the involvement of 'shinig path' an outlawed terrorost organisation , dormant for almost 20 years, behind the new set of murders. The deeper he is into the investigation more isolated he become. However the authorities had another task for him, to go and monitor the on going election in one of the remote part of Peru. Now deeply into the case, he gets into unearthing the true story, without the support of the authorities. As he finds his way to more and more people to link and connect the issues, he gets into another issue. All those whom he interview or meet, ended up victims and ended up dead. as he himself puts it :

"All the people I talk to die, Father. I'm afraid. It's ... it's as if I were signing their death sentences when I leave them."
The week long festival is on and the town is full of visitors from various part of the world. The atmosphere is tense and imminent violence is in the air. Chacalnata, is in the thick of the things. More deaths and suspects . The novel takes the typical twist and turns of suspects and allegations. The literary element is slowly moved away with the frenzy of things and action.

Red April, started very well continued till the midway in line with the expectation I had. However, soon, this too took the typical crime thriller turn and ended up in the common genre. On his part the writer keeps manages to keep the suspense on until the end. It is an easy and fast read. As I said, initial parts I find very well written, vivid and unhurried. Characterisation of Chacalnata is done pretty well, from a simpleton, vulnerable and lost in his new assignment to one who is cunning and intelligent is very subtle and good. May be there is a symbolic use of the image of mother, which escapes me. As a socio-political crime thriller, the book is good. If there are any comparison to Mario Vargas Llosa's "Death in the Andes" ( almost on the similar theme), I would cast my vote for the Nobel Laureate.
Red April ( 2006)

Santiago Roncagliolo ( translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman in 2009)

Atlantic Books

271 Pages

Rs 399
Other Reviews : Guardian , Complete Review, Independent, Seattlepi

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