- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
For readers whose knowledge of Polish-born British writer Joseph Conrad is limited to Heart of Darkness and the movie it inspired, Apocalypse Now , the reference to Costaguana in this novel’s title will be oblique at best. Costaguana is the fictitious South American country where Conrad’s ambitious novel Nostromo plays out. Vásquez is no stranger to the classics, having translated work by E.M. Forster, Victor Hugo, and others and written a biography of Conrad. He is also no stranger to history, especially that of his homeland, Colombia; his novel Los informantes (“The Informants”; Alfaguara, 2004) resuscitates World War II blacklists and betrayal there (Críticas , 1/05). In this novel, the setting is the Panama Canal Zone. José Altamirano narrates the fictional story within the true history in a meandering, self-conscious, and comical way. He is hyperaware of the impact of history on his life, having been conceived when his adulterous mother plays at being Manuela Sáenz to his father’s Simón Bolívar. The crux of this novel is Altamirano’s connection with the historical figure of Conrad, whom he tracks throughout. In the end, Altamirano confesses his life story and traitorous role in Colombian history to Conrad, which the European quickly writes up in Nostromo —replacing Colombia with Costaguana, calling it fiction, and deleting any reference to Altamirano. Surely, a lesser writer than Vásquez would not have been able to pull off this splendid trick of combining the real and imagined. Even readers with a casual knowledge of Conrad’s work will enjoy this novel. Recommended for all libraries andbookstores.