Abril rojo

January 16, 2007

Abril rojo

Abril Rojo is a novel about contemporary violence in Peru, told using noir conventions. There is an undercurrent of humor throughout the story, in spite of its serious and grim subject matter. Its main character, the fiscal distrital adjunto Félix Chacaltana Saldívar, is very unaware of his surroundings, living instead within a shallow bureaucratic formalism of laws and paperwork. Set in March and April 2000, during elections, the novel begins with the discovery of the charred remains of a body. Chacaltana finds unusual resistance from the police to investigate the murder and as he tries, obsessively but simple mindedly, to overcome this obstacle, he ends up drawing the attention of the army. What follows is the discovery of a serial killer at large, with gruesome ritualistic murders that represent decades of unrelenting violence.

Santiago Roncagliolo, the author, received the Premio Alfaguara in 2006 for this novel. However entertaining it is, I found two minor problems with it and a bigger one. There are a few grammatical oddities (for example, on two ocassions an incorrect “de que” is present), which seem to be the editor’s fault; however, these are surprisingly few. There are many liberties taken with the judicial system and the history of violence in Peru, which seems odd given the intention of the story; these are not so easy to spot and are so integral to the narrative that can be considered part of the framing of the tale and be overlooked. The main problem, the one I couldn’t ignore, is the extravagant nature of the serial killer’s actions. They fit well within the noir conventions the story uses. However, these crimes are so brutal that they distract from the actual, real crimes that the novel wants to highlight and condemn. As a result, the framework ends up hindering the impact of what has actually happened, of what the author presumably expects us to notice and care about.

That being said, the story is quite satisfying. The ending was so well executed that one could almost forgive the problem I mentioned. I wasn’t aware of Roncagliolo’s work prior to this novel, and will for sure keep an eye on him. Thanks to Rafael Benjumea for suggesting it.  


Notes on a scandal

January 16, 2007

Notes on a scandal

This is a well-written and very well-acted movie about two seriously flawed characters. Cate Blanchett plays a high school teacher who starts a relationship with one of her students. Judi Dench’s character is much more interesting. I suppose she is the villain of the movie, but to call her that seems a bit too simple; more precisely, her character is very immature and very damaged; her life seems to have been marked by repression and  guilt, and as a result she doesn’t seem capable to relate to other people at an adult level, instead developing obsessions and elaborate fantasy scenarios about her friendships to cope for the lack of love in her life.  The latest object of her infatuation is Blanchett’s character, and blackmail is the method she uses to keep her close.

All the characters in this movie seem real and unusually detailed, their motivations and actions, however reproachable or dislikable, well thought out. Thoroughly enjoyable.


117b – Turing degrees – Lecture 4

January 16, 2007

We defined languages and structures in the model theoretic sense, and the notion of an embedding between structures of the same language.

We proved that the \Sigma_1 theory of the degrees is decidable by means of forcing:

  • First we reduced the argument to showing that any finite partial order can be embedded in {\mathcal D}.
  • Then we argued that for this it is enough to show that there is an infinite independent family of degrees, where independence means that no element of the family is reducible to the join of finitely many of the other members of the family.
  • Finally, we built such a family using forcing.