Acclaimed Galician novelist Conde won Spain's Premio Nacional de Literatura for Peregrino en invierno (Winter Pilgrim, Edhasa, 2000). His most recent novel unfurls against the backdrop of the 1934 Asturian uprisings. Much of the novel reads like a traditional war story in which the narrator adjusts to the tedium of military life, speculates wildly about combat, and finds himself puzzled and disillusioned by the sight of men actually killing one another. In the second half of the novel, however, the narrator assumes a more active role. When an attack meant to capture prisoners backfires, he suggests his comrades play the part of prisoners to unnerve the enemy units camped nearby. Gradually, his fellow soldiers find they must go to ever greater lengths to make the treatment of the mock prisoners appear realistic, and their escalating cruelty mirrors, on a tiny scale, the greater violence of war itself. Although the story takes place in a realistic Asturian landscape, the novel probes the psychology of war rather than its ideological and political causes. The narrator identifies himself only as a member of a northern army fighting a southern army. At first this vagueness is baffling, but it works to show war as a confusing, arbitrary event that pushes young men beyond the normal boundaries of human behavior. Recommended for libraries and bookstores interested in Spanish fiction.
Ronald D. Briggs, New York City Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.