cover image The Neruda Case

The Neruda Case

Roberto Ampuero, trans. from the Spanish by Carolina de Robertis. Riverhead, $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-59448-743-9

Chilean author Ampuero’s first novel published in English, a moving fictional interpretation of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda’s final days in 1973, appropriately enough sings with poetic metaphor. Neruda, who’s ill with cancer as Chile teeters toward upheaval because of his friend President Allende’s reform platform, seeks out unemployed Cuban Cayetano Brulé in Valparaíso and hires him to investigate the whereabouts of a former acquaintance, Dr. Ángel Bracamonte. Never mind that Brulé is no detective. The aging poet–cum–political activist persuades the young Brulé to become his “own private Maigret,” and travel to Mexico City, the last place Neruda saw Bracamonte. The mission seems cut and dried, except Neruda has not only withheld critical information, he has sworn Brulé to secrecy. Nobody must know the identity of who Brulé is looking for or why he is looking for him. The plot twists from Mexico City to East Germany, from lies to truth, from uneasy peace to political coup, from life to death. Read this one as much for the story as for the wonderful way Ampuero has with words. Agent: Lindsay Edgecombe, Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. (June)