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 fake 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, overlooking faulty grammar from the narration since the characters speak that way; 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.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 16th, 2007 at 6:02 pm and is filed under Novels. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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Would truly love a response to this! I feel that Chacaltana’s character is fantastic; comparable to Saramargo’s bureaucratic fop in ‘El Doble’…very believable. However, I am perplexed, and perhaps my reading skills in castellano are wanting…but how can Chacaltana have all the furniture, mementos, photos etc from his childhood, his omnipresent mother if everything was burned in a fire…i’m confused…this was a big whole in the text for me ….someone put it together…
Puente

A shame Roncagliolo cannibalized “From Hell” by Alan Moore to write this not so good book. It is incredible that even the killer’s motivation is derivative of Mr. Moore’s work.

I assume by $\aleph$ you mean $\mathfrak c$, the cardinality of the continuum. You can build $D$ by transfinite recursion: Well-order the continuum in type $\mathfrak c$. At stage $\alpha$ you add a point of $A_\alpha$ to your set, and one to its complement. You can always do this because at each stage fewer than $\mathfrak c$ many points have been selected. […]

Stefan, "low" cardinalities do not change by passing from $L({\mathbb R})$ to $L({\mathbb R})[{\mathcal U}]$, so the answer to the second question is negative. More precisely: Assume determinacy in $L({\mathbb R})$. Then $2^\omega/E_0$ is a successor cardinal to ${\mathfrak c}$ (This doesn't matter, all we need is that it is strictly larger. T […]

The answer is no in general. For instance, by what is essentially an argument of Sierpiński, if $(X,\Sigma,\nu)$ is a $\sigma$-finite continuous measure space, then no non-null subset of $X$ admits a $\nu\times\nu$-measurable well-ordering. The proof is almost verbatim the one here. It is consistent (assuming large cardinals) that there is an extension of Le […]

(As I pointed out in a comment) yes, partial Woodinness is common in arguments in inner model theory. Accordingly, you obtain determinacy results addressing specific pointclasses (typically, well beyond projective). To illustrate this, let me "randomly" highlight two examples: See here for $\Sigma^1_2$-Woodin cardinals and, more generally, the noti […]

I am not sure which statement you heard as the "Ultimate $L$ axiom," but I will assume it is the following version: There is a proper class of Woodin cardinals, and for all sentences $\varphi$ that hold in $V$, there is a universally Baire set $A\subseteq{\mathbb R}$ such that, letting $\theta=\Theta^{L(A,{\mathbb R})}$, we have that $HOD^{L(A,{\ma […]

The question is asking to find all polynomials $f$ for which you can find $a,b\in\mathbb R$ with $a\ne b$ such that the displayed identity holds. The concrete numbers $a,b$ may very well depend on $f$. A priori, it may be that for some $f$ there is only one pair for which the identity holds, it may be that for some $f$ there are many such pairs, and it may a […]

The reflection principle is a theorem schema in ZFC, meaning that for each formula $\phi(\vec x)$ we can prove in ZFC a version of the principle for $\phi$. In particular, it gives us that if $\phi$ holds (in the universe of sets) then there is some ordinal $\alpha$ such that $V_\alpha\models \phi$. It follows from this that (assuming its consistency) $\math […]

All proofs of the Bernstein-Cantor-Schroeder theorem that I know either directly or with very little work produce an explicit bijection from any given pair of injections. There is an obvious injection from $[0,1]$ to $C[0,1]$ mapping each $t$ to the function constantly equal to $t$, so the question reduces to finding an explicit injection from $C[0,1]$ to $[ […]

One way we formalize this "limitation" idea is via interpretative power. John Steel describes this approach carefully in several places, so you may want to read what he says, in particular at Solomon Feferman, Harvey M. Friedman, Penelope Maddy, and John R. Steel. Does mathematics need new axioms?, The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic, 6 (4), (2000), 401 […]

"There are" examples of discontinuous homomorphisms between Banach algebras. However, the quotes are there because the question is independent of the usual axioms of set theory. I quote from the introduction to W. Hugh Woodin, "A discontinuous homomorphism from $C(X)$ without CH", J. London Math. Soc. (2) 48 (1993), no. 2, 299-315, MR1231 […]

Would truly love a response to this! I feel that Chacaltana’s character is fantastic; comparable to Saramargo’s bureaucratic fop in ‘El Doble’…very believable. However, I am perplexed, and perhaps my reading skills in castellano are wanting…but how can Chacaltana have all the furniture, mementos, photos etc from his childhood, his omnipresent mother if everything was burned in a fire…i’m confused…this was a big whole in the text for me ….someone put it together…

Puente

A shame Roncagliolo cannibalized “From Hell” by Alan Moore to write this not so good book. It is incredible that even the killer’s motivation is derivative of Mr. Moore’s work.