The Dancer and the Thief: A Novel

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"Traps the reader from the first page with its political undertones and its undeniable charm." —Isabel AllendeThis "powerful, humane," prize-winning novel of politics, ballet, and a spectacular heist by a reluctant master thief and his eager young protégé, "conjures...a contemporary Santiago, Chile, where the memory of Pinochet's reign and the 'disappearing' of citizens still looms" (Publishers Weekly). With prisons overflowing in Chile, the president declares a general amnesty for all nonviolent criminals. Ángel Santiago, a youth determined to
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"Traps the reader from the first page with its political undertones and its undeniable charm." —Isabel AllendeThis "powerful, humane," prize-winning novel of politics, ballet, and a spectacular heist by a reluctant master thief and his eager young protégé, "conjures...a contemporary Santiago, Chile, where the memory of Pinochet's reign and the 'disappearing' of citizens still looms" (Publishers Weekly). With prisons overflowing in Chile, the president declares a general amnesty for all nonviolent criminals. Ángel Santiago, a youth determined to avenge abuse he received in jail, seeks out the notorious bank robber Nicolás Vergara Grey, whose front-page exploits won him a reputation he would rather leave behind. Their plan for an ambitious and daring robbery is complicated by the galvanizing presence of Victoria Ponce, a virtuosic dancer and high-school dropout whose father was a victim of the regime.Praised for his "ability to place a personal story in the context of a national upheaval and make it warm, funny and universal" (San Francisco Chronicle), Antonio Skármeta sets this exuberant love story against the backdrop of the new Chile, free from the Pinochet dictatorship but beholden to the perils of globalization. The Dancer and the Thief, which won Spain's prestigious Planeta Prize, is a remarkable new novel from one of South America's finest storytellers. Reading group guide included.
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Editorial Reviews

Edith Grossman
“Skármeta writes about the whims of the heart and the tragedies of passion.....destined to stand among his most beloved works.”
Jonathan Yardley
Skarmeta charms once again…The Dancer and the Thief is much more than an agreeable caper. Though Skarmeta scarcely ranks at the very top of Latin America's remarkably distinguished and varied literary elite, he is a serious writer to whom the death and rebirth of democracy in his native Chile is an endlessly compelling subject…Though the ending that Skarmeta gives his characters falls well short of happy, the Chile that he portrays herein is vibrant and strong.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Skármeta (The Postman) conjures in his impressive sixth book a contemporary Santiago, Chile, where the memory of Pinochet's reign and the "disappearing" of citizens still looms. Presidential amnesty has granted freedom to some nonviolent criminals, releasing 20-year-old Ángel Santiago, a passionate young man imprisoned for impulsively stealing a wealthy rancher's horse, and 60-year-old "Nico" Vergara Grey, a gentleman-thief who has repented his life of crime. Ángel plans a grand heist and some payback, butut Ángel's heist is dependent on Nico, who wants only to be taken back by his estranged wife and son. Looming in the background is the warden who allowed inmates to rape and torture Ángel. Fearing (correctly) that Ángel will want revenge, the warden hires an assassin to kill him. Intertwined is Ángel's meeting with Victoria Ponce, a ballet student who wants to compose a dance to commemorate her dead father, a resistance member murdered by Pinochet's goons. Ángel helps Victoria move toward realizing her dream, and Nico eventually agrees to help with the heist, but with the assassin on his trail, Ángel may not be so lucky. Surprising jolts of humor flash throughout this powerful, humane novel. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Known for his canny knack for combining the elements of love, national crisis, and humor, SkArmeta, Chile's former ambassador to Germany, is also the author of the novel on which the highly popular movie Il Postinowas based. Now that Chile has returned to democracy after its traumatic years of dictatorship, the president extends amnesty to all nonviolent criminals in the nation's overcrowded prisons. Among them are a charismatic young horse thief named Angel Santiago and the master bank robber NicolAs Vergara Grey. Almost as soon as Angel leaves prison, he meets a talented dancer named Victoria Ponce, who desperately needs cash to finance her lessons, and he hatches the plan for a breathtaking bank heist if only he can enlist the aid of NicolAs, who also happens to need cash to rekindle the flames of his marriage to the beautiful Teresa Capriatti. Because Angel is a skilled horseman, an escape on horseback over the Andes to Buenos Aires for Angel, NicolAs, and Victoria seems like the perfect getaway. Warm, witty, and universal, this novel by veteran and prize-winning novelist SkArmeta is an absorbing page-turner. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/1/07.]
—Jack Shreve

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Chilean author Skarmeta (The Postman, 1995, etc.) returns to post-dictatorship Santiago in this tale of beauty, crime and revenge. In an attempt to deplete Santiago's overflowing jails-and in part to right a previous wrong-the government has suddenly granted an amnesty for nonviolent prisoners. Among those released are Angel Santiago, a young man who years earlier had stolen a horse, and Nicolas Vergara Gray, a notorious (but gentle and reflective) bank robber. Angel has been seared by his experience in prison, most notably for having been literally tossed into a den of thieves and brutalized at the behest of the evil warden Santoro. Now that he's out he wants revenge, and because Santoro knows of this desire, on the sly the warden also lets out Rigoberto Mar'n, a lifer, for 30 days, to allow him to assassinate Angel. Angel, however, doesn't just want revenge, he wants romance, and this comes to him unexpectedly in the form of Victoria Ponce, a 17-year-old dancer who's recently been booted from school for truancy and general recalcitrance. While their relationship is intensely sexual, it's also very sweet, for Angel, who has a photographic memory, begins to tutor Victoria so that she can complete her academic education and attend dance school. Meanwhile, Vergara Gray wants nothing more than to be reunited with his long-suffering wife Teresa, but he finds her both indifferent and impatient-she's suffered enough. Intrigue thickens as the recently released prisoners find themselves woefully short of money; they need to be creative in coming up with ways to find enough cash to eke out a day-to-day existence on the gritty streets of the city. To aid them, criminal genius Lira the Dwarf, whosebrilliance is in inverse proportion to his stature, sends Vergara Gray a letter from jail outlining a plan to make them all rich. A novel with a paradoxical combination of warmth and guile.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393333671
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/2/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,567,797
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Antonio Skármeta achieved worldwide renown with The Postman (Il Postino). His fiction has since received dozens of awards and has been translated into nearly thirty languages worldwide. He lives in Santiago, Chile.

Katherine Silver is an award-winning literary translator and the co-director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC).

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A story that stays interesting through the last page

    This novel begins with the release of some criminals due to an amensty declared in Chile by the president. Over the next few pages, we are introduced to the main characters, Ángel Santiago, who is the thief in the title, Nicolas Vergara Grey and Victoria Ponce, the dancer. We are also introduced to assorted other villains working on both sides of the law along with other characters needed to carry out a warm story. I found that Skármeta creates a story that flows and is very believable, almost leading the reader to anticipate various turns in the tale. His developement of his characters works well, fitting in with where he takes the reader.

    Once out of prison, Ángel seeks out Vergara Grey with a plan that Ángel got from another prisoner before his release. Much of the story deals with the interaction of the novice Ángel, who was imprisoned for borrowing a horse, as he attempts to convince Vergara Grey to take part in one more caper. Ángel's reasoning is clear - what other jobs will they be able to find.

    Ángel's interaction with Victoria is a love story. I believe that Skármeta leaves plenty of clues that Victoria is not what Ángel believes. Still, love drives Ángel in how he deals with Victoria.

    This story was a very easy read. The characters are interesting and well developed. The story stays interesting through the last page.

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