cover image El Infierno

El Infierno

Carlos Martinez Moreno. Readers International, $16.95 (266pp) ISBN 978-0-930523-47-3

This last novel by Uruguayan writer and defense attorney Martinez Moreno, who died in exile in 1986, depicts the revolt of Uruguay's Tupamaro urban guerillas and their suppression by the military in the early 1970s. Using true accounts of kidnapping, torture and murder from political detainees whom he defended while living in Uruguay, Martinez Moreno fashions a dreamlike yet brutally realistic story of a police state. His book borrows chiefly from The Inferno in Dante's Divine Comedy. In this modern-day hell, wealthy Uruguayan bankers and prosecutors are kidnapped by the Tupamaros; army colonels and police officers learn more effective ways to torture political prisoners from the ``cold, calculating'' North American ``adviser.'' Readers confront crucial moral questions about the nature of dictatorships and guerilla movements in Latin America, as well as average citizens' passive reactions toward them. The author skillfully recreates his clients' experiences, although the women are stereotypical. Also, the momentum of the book is sometimes slowed by the characters' stream-of-consciousness thoughts. This is a terrifying book, written with chilling clarity and nightmarish precision. Although it is unremitting in intensity and attention to detail, readers never lose sight of the author's incisive, brilliantly evoked vision. (September)