The latest addition to my website is Mario Vargas Llosa‘s Tiempos recios [Hard Times]. The novel deals with the overthrow of the democratically elected Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz in 1954, by Guatemalan forces, supported by the CIA and the US Ambassador to Guatemala. He was primarily overthrown because he had wanted to tax the United Fruit Company, which orchestrated a successful campaign in the US, “proving” he was communist (he was not). We follow various key characters, some real, some fictitious, some good, some definitely not. Vargas Llosa makes no bones about his views, which are that the United States illegally subverted a democratic country and that its actions have had profoundly negative effects on Guatemala and on other Latin American countries as a result.
The latest addition to my website is Rodrigo Rey Rosa‘s El material humano (Human Matter), Though called a novel, it has been described as more of notes for a novel than an actual novel. It tells about Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s investigation into the archive project (now online) relating to the police activities during the Guatemala Civil War and to research the cases of intellectuals and artists who either had been investigated by the police or had collaborated with them as informants. Rey Rosa naturally finds strange entries in the archive, speaks to the son of the former head of the police records, discusses his mother’s kidnapping and is discouraged and warned off from pursuing his researches. Not surprisingly, he has a variety of tales to tell us about what went on during the war and what is still going on. We are waging a battle against Evil. That is how extrajudicial executions are justified, says one police officer and, sadly, this view is still to be found.
The latest addition to my website is Eduardo Halfon‘s Duelo (Mourning). This is a book about memory and recovering memory. The narrator – called Eduardo Halfon – carries out two investigations. The first is to track down the story of his grandfather, who had been in various concentration camps during the Holocaust but had survived and emigrated to Guatemala. The grandfather had refused to return to Poland or, indeed, to speak Polish, because of what he saw as the betrayal of the Jews by the Poles. The second is to find out what really happened to his father’s brother, Salomón, who may or may not have drowned in a lake when he was five. Halfon tells an excellent story of the two investigations and of his family in Guatemala and the United States, making it one of the more worthwhile memoir-as-novel books.