José Carlos Llop: El mensajero de Argel [The Messenger from Algiers]


The latest addition to my website is José Carlos Llop‘s El mensajero de Argel [The Messenger from Algiers]. This novel, written by a writer known in Spain as much for his poetry as for his prose fiction, is something of a schizophrenic novel. It starts off by being about memory, loss of memory and recovered memory. Carlos Orfila Klein hosts a radio programme in an unnamed European coastal town. It is concerned with interviewing older people to remember the past, though not necessarily the recent present. All have interesting tales to tell, often going back to the time before their own birth. However, a casual one night stand, with a woman reminding him of his mother, and meeting one of his interviewees, a man who calls himself Jorge Baker and who very much resembles the Messenger from Algiers, who used to visit his grandparents’ house twice a year, has him try to recover both the memories of his parents and find out what happened to them, as both disappeared, his father after a prison sentence for drug smuggling in Portugal and his mother a couple of years later. Carlos had been brought up by his grandparents and Baker, after denying any knowledge of the family, gradually reveals to him a lot of unsavory truths about his grandfather and his role in World War II and Francoism. As a novel of ideas on memory and memory loss and recovery this looked to be a very promising novel. As a quasi-thriller, which, by the end, it is, it is enjoyable but less interesting than it had promised.

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