A chilling, internationally acclaimed political thriller, Red April
is a grand achievement in contemporary Latin American fiction, written by the youngest winner ever of the Alfaguara Prize—one of the most prestigious in the Spanish-speaking world—and translated from the Spanish by one of our most celebrated literary translators, Edith Grossman. It evokes Holy Week during a cruel, bloody, and terrifying time in Peru’s history, shocking for its corrosive mix of assassination, bribery, intrigue, torture, and enforced disappearance—a war between grim, ideologically-driven terrorism and morally bankrupt government counterinsurgency.
Mother-haunted, wife-abandoned, literature-loving, quietly eccentric Felix Chacaltana Saldivar is a hapless, by-the-book, unambitious prosecutor living in Lima. Until now he has lived a life in which nothing exceptionally good or bad has ever happened to him. But, inexplicably, he has been put in charge of a bizarre and horrible murder investigation. As it unfolds by propulsive twists and turns—full of paradoxes and surprises—Saldivar is compelled to confront what happens to a man and a society when death becomes the only certainty in life.
Stunning for its self-assured and nimble clarity of style—reminiscent of classic noir fiction—the inexorable momentum of its plot, and the moral complexity of its concerns, Red April is at once riveting and profound, informed as it is by deft artistry in the shaping of conflict between competing venalities. As the New York Times declares, “Lima is once again one of Latin America’s brightest literary scenes.”
Amazon Exclusive: Santiago Roncagliolo on Red April
I have always loved thrillers. In particular, I’ve always loved serial killer thrillers, like David Fincher’s Seven
or Allan Moore's From Hell
. Serial killers puts readers or spectators in touch with their darkest and most animal impulses, while making an intriguing plot.
I also wanted to write about war, or at least, about the scars from war. As a Peruvian, I was raised in a society where 70,000 people died during the eighties. Army and terrorists were killing so many people that they were hardly different from each other. In the last few years, the same things have happened in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the same fear I felt in Lima under the bombs and blackouts is felt by people from New York after September 11th or Madrid after March 11th. Therefore, I thought I had a story to tell that would be interesting to read all over.
A thriller needs a good location. I had the traditional Holy Week from Ayacucho, a really scary celebration representing the Death and Resurrection of Christ. During one night of Holy Week, everyone turns off all the electric lights in the villages. Among the only light of thousands of candles, a naked and blood-bathed image of Christ is taken all around the city, as if it were slowly floating in the dark. And that is just one night. Holy Week was the perfect place to convey the Catholic myths of eternal life as well as the Andean concept of eternal return, two versions of death, and triumph over death. Any psycho would love to work there. --Santiago Roncagliolo
(Photo © Eric Molgora)
Starred Review. Roncagliolo's stunning debut, about the brutality of Peruvian society under the Fujimori regime, merits comparison to the work of J.M. Coetzee. In 2000, associate district prosecutor Félix Chacaltana Saldívar, who's returned to the province of Ayacucho from Lima, clashes with his superiors after the discovery of a charred and mutilated corpse. Rigidly adhering to bureaucratic procedure, Saldívar demands that an official police report on the crime be filed, despite the active resistance of the police and the local military commander. The prosecutor's refusal to abort his inquiry threatens the official line that the Shining Path terrorists are a thing of the past. Eventually, he's reassigned to help monitor elections, only to encounter more corruption. Within the frame of a puzzling whodunit, Roncagliolo crafts an unsparing view of life controlled by a repressive and paranoid government. A mother fixation, social awkwardness and a desire to impress others lend complexity to the protagonist. (Apr.)
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