Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo (2006)
 If you kill with homemade bombs it’s called terrorism, and if you kill with machine guns and hunger it’s called defense. It’s a play on words, isn’t it? Do you know what the difference is? We don’t care. But your people piss with fear without a machine gun in their hands.”
 Felix Chacaltana is the district prosecutor in Ayacucho when a burnt out body is discovered during the Carnival. Is it simply a murder or is the resurrection of the terrorist organisation Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path)? The Prosecutor has a difficult time getting the police to investigate the murder properly.

The setting is certainly interesting and as the author states in his note, most of the events in the book are true, they are just set in a fictional setting. And in the beginning it was certainly interesting to read about the prosecutor’s struggles with the corrupt and lazy police. But as the story evolved, I was less impressed. I’m not sure why, but I think the main reason is that it just turned messy and rushed. I wish it would have stuck to the path with the terrorist and the resurrection theme.

Yet Roncagliolo does a wonderful job portraying the brutality of both sides of the conflict. And that even the best of men can have the worst intentions.  


the War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa (1981)

Brazil, 1890s. A mysterious prophet is walking around Bahia, telling tales of doom and swearing that the newly established Republic of Brazil will fail. He is followed by the poor, but also by thieves, murderers, whores and other he has put his hands on. They build a new town, where the rules of the Republic don’t exist. The regional government of Bahia doesn’t like this and sends an army and this is the start of the long war between the prophet’s people and the Republic of Brazil.

This was a hard read for me because it is so richly detailed. Every character is described, often starting by his birth, and thus I could only handle about twenty pages a day. Was it really necessary to describe the war from every angle? It is as brutal and dark as Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy but mixed with magic realism. But it misses something, because I felt that I could at any point in the book stop reading and it wouldn’t have mattered if I finished it or not. I guess it didn’t make me curious about what would happen next.

And oh, I read a Norwegian edition and it had so many typos and occasionally bad language that it made me sad (and glad that I bought it at a second-hand store).