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.

(1) Patrick Dehornoy gave a nice talk at the Séminaire Bourbaki explaining Hugh Woodin's approach. It omits many technical details, so you may want to look at it before looking again at the Notices papers. I think looking at those slides and then at the Notices articles gives a reasonable picture of what the approach is and what kind of problems remain […]

The description below comes from József Beck. Combinatorial games. Tic-tac-toe theory, Encyclopedia of Mathematics and its Applications, 114. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2008, MR2402857 (2009g:91038). Given a finite set $S$ of points in the plane $\mathbb R^2$, consider the following game between two players Maker and Breaker. The players alternat […]

Yes. This is a consequence of the Davis-Matiyasevich-Putnam-Robinson work on Hilbert's 10th problem, and some standard number theory. A number of papers have details of the $\Pi^0_1$ sentence. To begin with, take a look at the relevant paper in Mathematical developments arising from Hilbert's problems (Proc. Sympos. Pure Math., Northern Illinois Un […]

I am looking for references discussing two inequalities that come up in the study of the dynamics of Newton's method on real-valued polynomials (in one variable). The inequalities are fairly different, but it seems to make sense to ask about both of them in the same post. Most of the details below are fairly elementary, they are mostly included for comp […]

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First of all, $f(z)+e^z\ne 0$ by the first inequality. It follows that $e^z/(f(z)+e^z)$ is entire, and bounded above. You should be able to conclude from that.

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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.