Santiago Roncagliolo, , trans. from the Spanish by Edith Grossman. . Pantheon, $24.95 (271pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42544-8
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.
Reviewed on: 03/02/2009
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