cover image The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone

Nona Fernández, trans. from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (220p) ISBN 978-1-64445-047-5

Chilean author Fernández’s second novel to be translated into English (after Space Invaders) powerfully evokes the brutality of Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year military dictatorship and is based on the life of one of his security policemen. The unnamed 40-something narrator grew up during Pinochet’s reign, and as an adult her documentary and script writing work have led her to repeatedly encounter intelligence agent Andrés Antonio Valenzuela Morales, who in 1984 made a bombshell confession that he systematically tortured and murdered political dissidents. Now, 30 years after Morales’s flight from Chile, he’s returned to give testimony for the court, and the narrator becomes obsessed with him. For her, Morales illuminates what she calls the “twilight zone” of a repressive regime, where people disappear regularly and feeble excuses for absences are accepted. While the narrator grew up largely unscathed, she’s haunted by the stories of torture she read in magazines, and as her research takes her down a dark tunnel of history and memory, she imagines how the intervening years have treated Morales. Fernández keenly reconstructs one of his victim’s final moments and Morales’s eventual escape to France after his confession. This disturbing story of a repentant man makes for a gripping psychological game of cat and mouse. (Mar.)