cover image The Last Days of William Shakespeare

The Last Days of William Shakespeare

Vlady Kociancich. William Morrow & Company, $20 (297pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10432-0

After a shaky start, the Argentinian writer's fourth novel establishes itself as a sly, exquisitely timed comedy about South American political corruption and patronage. In ``the days of National Reconstruction of Culture'' in an unnamed city clearly based on Kociancich's native Buenos Aires, a U.S. newspaper reports that the country's national theater--which no one knew existed--employs a staff of more than 400 people and has continuously staged only one play, Shakespeare's Hamlet , since 1920. This discovery throws the country into an uproar. The military manipulates Santiago Bonday, a well-known writer, to propose the re-establishment of the country's indigenous culture. Bonday's impassioned pleas to replace the theater's long-running production with a native work sets off a wave of political abductions, assassinations and book-banning as radical ``pro-Shakespearites'' are pitted against cultural isolationists. Also drawn into the struggle is Renata, a young, struggling writer who becomes wardrobe mistress of the National Theater. She bears witness to the ludicrous actions of her compatriots and ultimately comes to represent Kociancich's ironic view of those who become ``victims of the stupidity in power.'' (May)