The Dancer Upstairs: A Novel

Overview

The Peruvian guerilla leader Ezequiel is responsible for tens of thousands of fiendishly cruel murders, yet he consistently eludes capture. But in Agustn Rejas he has an indefatigable pursuer. From secluded city streets to the paths of a mountain village the policeman persists, tracking and anticipating Ezequiel's every move. Rejas' only reprieve is his love for his daughter's beautiful dance teacher--until he begins to pick up unmistakable signals that her circles--and ...
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Overview

The Peruvian guerilla leader Ezequiel is responsible for tens of thousands of fiendishly cruel murders, yet he consistently eludes capture. But in Agustn Rejas he has an indefatigable pursuer. From secluded city streets to the paths of a mountain village the policeman persists, tracking and anticipating Ezequiel's every move. Rejas' only reprieve is his love for his daughter's beautiful dance teacher--until he begins to pick up unmistakable signals that her circles--and Ezequiel's--intersect.
Based on the extraordinary manhunt for the leader of Peru's notorious guerilla organization, The Shining Path, The Dancer Upstairs is a story reminiscent of Graham Greene and John LeCarr--tense, intricate, and heartbreaking.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Riveting...an intriguing, well-crafted and powerful novel.”–The Washington Post

“A beautifully crafted tale of love, obsession, and terror.”–The Baltimore Sun

“Enviably good, a genuinely fine novel from a writer who possesses real heart and flair.”–Louis de Bernieres, The Sunday Times (London)

“An intriguing, well-crafted and powerful novel.” --The Washington Post

"I cannot think of any other contemporary foreign writer who has ventured with such curiosity and such sure instincts into the labyrinth of the politics of my country and acquitted himself so well." --Mario Vargas Llosa

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Taking the recent turmoil in Peru as his starting point, Shakespeare (The Vision of Elena Silves) has written a gripping literary thriller in which a detective's pursuit of a terrorist leader expands into a many-layered tale of politics and love. Traveling in Brazil in search of a story, British journalist John Dyer is flabbergasted when he stumbles on Agustn Rejas, a former police colonel from an unnamed Latin American nation much like Peru. Rejas is the man who captured the infamous Maoist rebel leader known as President Ezequiel, a character patterned after Abimael Guzmn, leader of Peru's Shining Path. For years, Ezequiel had terrorized his country with a carefully orchestrated campaign of violence. Dyer plays the role of staggered, awestruck audience to the account of how Rejas stalked and eventually trapped his dangerous adversary. Night after night, Rejas pours out his story to the spellbound Dyer, telling of his own rural upbringing, his troubled marriage to a bourgeois princess and his growing affection for his daughter's ballet teacher, an impetuous, idealistic young woman with her own ideas about the future of their country. Shakespeare crafts his narrative with patience and skill, ratcheting up the tension with excruciating precision. Rejas's chilling tale of murderous 12-year-olds and the everyday menace of life in a nation caught in a deadly struggle between a repressive government and terrorist revolutionaries is riveting. While the character of Dyer never emerges satisfactorily from the role of convenient framing device, Shakespeare more than compensates for this minor shortcoming, delivering an unusually powerful examination of what animates the souls of those who choose-or are forced-to play even small parts upon the stage of history. Film rights to John Malkovich. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Shakespeare (The Vision of Elena Silves, LJ 11/1/90), reported on the capture of Abimal Guzman, leader of Peru's Shining Path, and here fictionalizes those events. When John Dyer needs a major story to avoid being transferred away from South America, he asks his aunt to arrange an interview with the Peruvian leader. His aunt has gone north and Dyer follows, hoping to enlist her aid. He does not find her, but he does find Rejas-the man who captured rebel leader Ezequiel. Rejas's story details not only the detective work of tracking Ezequial down but also how the family, lovers, and personal history all become intertwined in this chase. The suspenseful narrative is overlaid with a graphic depiction of how this guerrilla movement engulfs the innocent and confuses heroes and villains so that at one point even his own villagers, believing Rejas to be an evil spirit, force him to spend the night hiding in a river. Through Rejas's tale we descend into a world where the first casualty is reality, danger is everywhere, and nothing is certain. Recommended for most collections.-Joshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. System, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Kirkus Reviews
In a sequel of sorts to his award-winning novel The Vision of Elena Silves (1990), Shakespeare again explores an explosive situation in Latin America (inspired by the Shining Path insurrection in Peru), deftly mingling love and suspense in a powerful, persuasive narrative.

British journalist John Dyer, about to be reassigned when his paper opts to close its South American bureau, pursues one last, capstone interview with the elusive, all-powerful Calderón, the country's intelligence chief who serves as its de facto ruler. Failing in his mission, Dyer happens instead on an even more important prize: the policeman who for 12 years stalked the all- but-invisible rebel leader Ezequiel, capturing him without a shot and thereby becoming a national hero. The detective, Agustín Rejas, has shunned the limelight, but a shared love of literature wears down his defenses, and he reluctantly begins to tell all to Dyer. Over the course of many nights Rejas retraces the full story of the capture and goes on to explain his life as well. Ever on the verge of poverty, with less and less in common with his status-conscious, lighter-skinned wife, Rejas stuck doggedly to the pursuit of his quarry, enduring long periods of frustration to accumulate clues, however slowly. Only when he met his daughter's ballet teacher, whose passion for the rituals of his native highlands stirs memories of his childhood, and found himself falling in love with her, did his world begin to seem less dreary—and then a captured videotape enabled him at last to locate Ezequiel. The capture was the culmination of his career, but it also, ironically, destroyed his new-found chance at happiness.

Precisely, beautifully detailed, with a remarkable grasp of tension in a society not the writer's own: a tale both faithful to its time and utterly timeless.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385721073
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/5/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,010,328
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Shakespeare is the author of The Vision of Elena Silves, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, The High Flyer, and Bruce Chatwin, a biography. He lives in London.
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Read an Excerpt

The Peruvian guerilla leader Ezequiel is responsible for tens of thousands of fiendishly cruel murders, yet he consistently eludes capture. But in Agustn Rejas he has an indefatigable pursuer. From secluded city streets to the paths of a mountain village the policeman persists, tracking and anticipating Ezequiel's every move. Rejas' only reprieve is his love for his daughter's beautiful dance teacher—until he begins to pick up unmistakable signals that her circles—and Ezequiel's—intersect.
Based on the extraordinary manhunt for the leader of Peru's notorious guerilla organization, The Shining Path, The Dancer Upstairs is a story reminiscent of Graham Greene and John LeCarrtense, intricate, and heartbreaking.
Read More Show Less

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