31 March 2008

Anne turns 100

Margaret Atwood has penned a lovely, forthright essay on Anne Shirley's 100th year:
"God's in his heaven, all's right with the world," Anne whispers in the very last lines of Anne of Green Gables. She's fond of Victorian poetry, so it's appropriate that she ends her story by quoting from a song sung by the optimistic heroine of Robert Browning's dramatic poem "Pippa Passes"; doubly appropriate because Anne Shirley herself acts a kind of Pippa throughout the book. Pippa is a poor Italian orphan girl who slaves away in a silk-spinning mill, yet manages to preserve a pure imagination and a love of nature despite her lowly status. Like Pippa, Anne is an unselfconscious innocent who, unbeknownst to herself, brings joy, imagination and the occasional epiphany to the citizenry of Avonlea, who are inclined to be practical but drear.
It would be interesting to read more on the literary references in Montgomery's books. Aside from Browning, she also cites Dickens, Thackeray, Shakespeare, Pope, the Bible, Tennyson, the Greeks, and many others. Since I read these books as a child, I often learned the references before the source material. It was funny studying literature in college and finally coming across many of these quotations in the originals. The discovery of this familiarity made the classics seem like old friends (as Anne herself would say).

(via Sarah Weinman)

30 March 2008

The reversal of alienation

Last Thursday, Maud brought up a telling issue:
American creative writing instruction, in my experience, tends to discourage would-be novelists from working with philosophical concepts. Large, abstract ideas are seen as the province of scientists and Nobel laureates. Everyone else, the thinking goes, should stay squarely in the realm of concrete troubles like adultery or thievery or murder.

But don’t the best novels — Crime and Punishment, for instance, or The Sea, The Sea or Disgraceblend the two? Aren’t we interested in the reasons for and implications of characters’ predicaments and actions?
She went on to cite an interview of Walker Percy's where he explained how Kierkegaard had already laid the philosophical foundation for what he wanted to do in The Moviegoer.

Paul Elie's group biography, The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage, takes a good, long look at the abstract ideas behind Percy's fiction (as well as the work of Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day).

In his essay, "The Man on the Train," (republished in The Message in the Bottle), Percy begins by explaining,
There is no such thing, strictly speaking, as a literature of alienation. In the re-presenting of alienation the category is reversed and becomes something entirely different. There is a great deal of difference between an alienated commuter riding a train and this same commuter reading a book about an alienated commuter riding a train. (On the other hand, Huck Finn's drifting down the river is somewhat the same as a reader's reading about Huck Finn drifting down the river.) The nonreading commuter exists in true alienation, which is unspeakable; the reading commuter rejoices in the speakability of his alienation and in the new triple alliance of himself, the alienated character and the author.
Elie further explains the difference (using Percy's essay):
Put a novel in the commuter’s hand and things get more complicated. The train rounds a bend. Sunlight glints off the glass. There is a pretty girl waiting to board on the platform up ahead. Still, the novel is absorbing. This is what art does: it lets us escape our alienation temporarily. But some works of art do this better than others. Some banish our alienation; others distract us from it; some show it to us without offering any consolation. Whether they do so is a matter not only of quality, but of kind.

Making these distinctions, Percy is oddly assured: he seems to be writing from experience, even though [at this point] he has never completed a novel to his satisfaction. Repetition, he declares, is usually diminished in a work of art; as the hero goes home again his passionate quest for the meaning of his life will strike the reader as interesting at best, because the reader wasn’t there the first time. Alienation, in a novel, becomes something else: the novel of alienation, like a symbol, re-presents alienation, and so will dispel it in the reader, and as the alienated reader recognizes his condition in the text, the book "heals the very wound it re-presents."

This achievement, Percy says, "is an aesthetic victory of comradeliness, a recognition of plight in common. Its motto is not 'I despair and do not know that I despair' but 'At least we know that we are lost to ourselves'--which is very great knowledge indeed." Whereas "the nonreading commuter exists in true alienation, which is unspeakable," Percy goes on to explain, "the reading commuter rejoices in the speakability of his alienation and in the new triple alliance of himself, the alienated character, and the author. His mood is affirmatory and glad: Yes! That’s how it is!"

That is ecstatically said, and for a moment the insight banishes alienation in just the way Percy claims it does. It also suggests that Percy is celebrating the novel of alienation. After all, he says the reversal of alienation is "the supreme intersubjective achievement of art," which is to "set forth the truth of it: how it stands with both of us."

28 March 2008

Best news of the week

Sancho's Panza is back--in a very big, vibrant, and true way:
We need Oiticica and Frida Kahlo, Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez, Juan Luis Guerra and Juana Molina, etc. etc. Not Macondo or McOndo. But Más Hondo, deep, deep enough to contain everything, and more, y siempre, algo más. Admit it, the baroque always was a congenital thing in Latin America, a baroque built around the depth of the culture's carrying sack, which has no breaking point, just eternal inordinate strain. One thing is marketing exoticism, another is indulging in it because it's in your bones; one thing is marketing a universalist's sophistication and dominion of forms being trafficked in Paris-New York-London-Berlin-Rome, another is actually having that sophistication, effortlessly. And being secure enough in your possession of it to not require the upturned nose when in range of a Frida's or a Gabo's flowers.
Yes, yes, yes.

Here's hoping he never goes away again.

Personal revolution

Tore through Revolutionary Road in three days. Yates perfectly captures the delicate balance between responsibility and personal satisfaction, locating the dilemma in the decisions of a young couple in 1955. I'm still thinking about it... (Can one ever really know the difference between gut instinct and self-delusion?) Although it's your standard realist novel, the ambiguity of the causes and effects of the Wheelers' disastrous relationship make it more mirror than cautionary tale--its issues are just as vital and necessary as they were then. I hope the upcoming film maintains this ambiguity.

As Blake Bailey says in a 2007 article,
Were Yates alive to advise Mendes, I daresay he'd insist that the movie begin, as the novel does, with April's mortifyingly awful performance in an amateur production of The Petrified Forest. In other words, the Wheelers' doom should never be in doubt because they can't help being themselves. "When the curtain fell at last," Yates wrote, at the end of one of the most excruciating scenes in American literature, "it was an act of mercy."

27 March 2008

Short and sweet

25 March 2008

Unexplainable stories

Last winter's issue of The Quarterly Conversation contains Marcelo Ballvé's wonderfully insightful essay on the work of César Aira, providing several keys to understanding the Argentine's complex yet playful work:
Aira has staked out a very cogent and immensely influential (in Latin America) artistic position that basically says "storytelling at its finest avoids explanations, information, interpretation, etc." In a series of 1988 lectures delivered at the University of Buenos Aires, Aira was clear on this point: "The real story, which we have grown unaccustomed to, is chemically free of explanation. . . . The story is always about something unexplainable. The art of narration declines as explanations are added." [...]

Aira's novels tend to begin straightforwardly, immediately immersing the reader in the climate of the story. These beginnings are done with a natural self-confidence, the entrancing self-possession of the best oral storytellers. Aira understands that to begin a story, no fancy words or purple prose are necessary. Nor are complex situations meant to be presented as such at first. The job at hand is to begin. The story must be allowed to unfold first, before it can be refolded by the author into something strange, with infinite folds—an origami monster.
All of this accurately describes Aira's novel, El mago (not yet translated into English). A lonely magician has a curious problem—he can actually perform real magic. He doesn't know how or why, but he can. One would think that this would ensure him a lifetime of fame and fortune, but the truth is quite the opposite...

He can fly, but suffers from vertigo. He can't pull money out of thin air because bills are numbered and he isn't sure what problems would result. He can't create factories or houses because property is always already owned by someone else and he wouldn't be able to give a satisfactory reason for having them in the first place. But what about simply making gold? He'd have to sell it, sign papers, and it would be too dangerous to make a living out of doing this continually. He tried using the winning numbers in roulette, but it made him nervous, and the worry and paranoia that came from going from casino to casino was just not worth it. (He'd never tried using a winning lottery number because he feared public exposure.)

But what prevents him from becoming a better magician? The sad truth is that it simply isn't his vocation. He chose the job as the best way to hide his abilities and lacks the talent and imagination to be truly great. He rents videos of different magicians worldwide, selects his favorite tricks, and uses them as his own. He always plans on improving them, but is too lazy to make the effort and so the tricks are exactly the same as the originals. He believes himself a failure for not using his talents adequately, condemned to a life of mediocrity. He has a modest apartment, but his wife and teenage children are demanding more. After twenty years in the business, he's determined to change his circumstances.

He resolves to make himself known as the Best Magician in the World at the upcoming convention for professional magicians in Panama. The rest of the story concerns itself with what Hans Chans (whose real name is Pedro María Gregorini) does once he arrives at the hotel hosting the convention and all of the things that do (and don't) happen as a result.
[Aira's] versatility is possible only because at the heart of each Aira novel there is a marvelously ingenious storytelling device—a premise, central anecdote, or plot mechanism—which Aira exploits to the nth potential. He has a vertigo-inducing capacity to suggest a cornucopia of stories even while telling just one.
The magician's basic dilemma of how to find his place among his peers and make a name for himself branches off into other smaller, yet more immediate complications (for example, how to locate the convention's program so he can know when he's scheduled to perform? Is he really the invited "star" of the show? How can he get rid of the obsessive hotel employee that won't leave him alone? And, most importantly, how can he even be sure he hasn't conjured the entire scenario?).

The answer to the magician's problems appears in the most unlikely of places. While searching for the elusive program, the magician meets three publishers who remind him of the three wise men (or "magi"—lots of potential symbolism here, especially the parallel of being at the "cradle" of a new venture). The revelation our sad magician finally experiences at the end made me laugh aloud at its sheer brilliance. Aira takes us through existential dilemmas, angst, and the ennui of infinite possibilities to the beauty of a finite, everyday solution.
At the end of this lecture, citing Argentine writer Alberto Laiseca, Aira compared the writer to a magician: "The greatness and efficacy of a magician is measured by his refusal to use magic. The true magician, the greatest, is the poorest and most unfortunate of all mortals. Because between his magic and his person forgetfulness takes shape, in the form of the world."
This comparison is the key to the novel—a fable on the miraculous potential of fiction.

Aira has a genius for taking something many would wish for, turning it into a surreal nightmare, and revealing how the solution has existed all along—and is even superior to the dream. I look forward to reading more of his work.

15 March 2008

Semana Santa

Café del Parque, Santa Marta

Holy Week, vacation time. The house has been cleaned, books organized. Family members arrive tomorrow. We'll revisit beaches we haven't seen in a while, go camping, read in the shade, and hope to get some rest amid the traveling. Will check back soon.

14 March 2008

More on Chesterton and Borges

Guillermo Martínez's Borges y la matemática is such a fun book. The author of Crímenes imperceptibles (aka The Oxford Murders) compiled certain university lectures on the mathematical concepts found in Borges' stories specifically for those of us who "can only count to ten." I've been reading it slowly--each time Martínez discusses a Borges story, I'll stop and reread the story. It's been a wonderful way to rediscover his work and spark new epiphanies (because if anyone should be reread, it's Borges).

In reading El Aleph, I made a little discovery in its epilogue. Borges discusses his story "El muerto," and divulges that the character of Azevedo Bandeira "es también una tosca divinidad, una versión mulata y cimarrona del incomparable Sunday de Chesterton." So The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare inspired Borges--one more for the list of Chesterton-Borges connections.

Back in October, Ed linked to Gilbert Adair's wise consideration of the great GKC and The Club of Queer Trades:
Chesterton sought always to entertain - he was a reader's writer rather than a writer's writer. Yet even these light-textured tales (the members of the titular club must each practise a heretofore unheard-of profession) have, as is often the case with this author, a profoundly unsettling undertow. The Argentinian fabulist Jorge Luis Borges, a great admirer, once made an intriguing claim. He said that, while Dickens' fiction piled on the agonies of poverty, neglect, violence, solitude and death, the warmth of his style guaranteed that the society he depicted never ceased to be convivial. The ostensibly breezy, life-loving Chesterton, by contrast, tended to write nightmarish fictions full of ominously lurid sunsets and wild-eyed, red-haired young poets. [...]

Even if, in Chesterton's work, crimes that seem to be rooted in the pagan and the supernatural are invariably revealed, come the dénouement, to have had a reassuringly rational basis, an aftertaste of occult perversity lingers, as it does from a proper nightmare. In short, the more one reads him, the more one begins to wonder whether this jolly, God-fearing man might just have been, in today's vulgar parlance, sick. It is, at any rate, his flesh-creeping proximity to Poe and Kafka and indeed Borges that makes him not just still readable but still curiously modern.
Chesterton's sense of humor is by turns black, biting, and playful. He exposes the strangeness and bizarre beauty of the day-to-day that we unthinkingly take for granted. The Club of Queer Trades is an excellent introduction to his work and should probably be read before The Man Who Was Thursday.

Incidentally, someone should do a study of his influence on contemporary writing. I'm pretty sure that both Jesse Ball (in Samedi the Deafness) and Neil Gaiman (in American Gods) are taking a page from Chesterton's book with the characters of Saturday and Wednesday (respectively)...

13 March 2008

The more things change

John Dryden in 1680:
In the meantime it seems to me that the true reason why we have so few versions which are tolerable, is not from the too close pursuing of the author's sense, but because there are so few who have all the talents which are requisite for translation, and that there is so little praise and so small encouragement for so considerable a part of learning.
(from Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida, edited by Rainer Schulte and John Biguenet)

11 March 2008

The problem with "high art"

Over the weekend, I tried to pinpoint what it was about Stephen Marche's essay on Robbe-Grillet that bothered me. (I really liked Raymond + Hannah--there's no axe to grind here, just some honest questioning.) I couldn't get to a computer and wound up scribbling my thoughts in a notebook. Such a strong statement was bound to get a reaction: Daniel Green and Scott Esposito have already posted their well-substantiated views, but here are my purely subjective thoughts (for good measure).

For all I know, Marche may be right. I don't have the qualifications or the knowledge to dismantle his arguments. But there's something about this that doesn't sit well with me. As a "common reader" (whatever that really means), armed with only a BA and without any writerly pretentions, I actually enjoyed reading Jealousy...perhaps because of the challenge it presented. Doesn't any disparagement of this style of writing, this quibble with form, go against the exploration he's discussing? Granted, I have not read any of Robbe-Grillet's criticism and only a couple of interviews (and only one novel). Strict dictums such as Marche describes cannot be religiously adhered to any more than plan traditionalism should be (as he states in the essay).

But I can't help but think that the whole idea of "high art" comes with the unnecessary labels of difficulty-for-its-own-sake, sterility, and elitism only because that's what the "experts" say and so that's what people come to accept--without having read any of the actual work itself. The repuation becomes a barrier to engagement for the reader. Unfortuantely, too many people unthinkingly tend to accept these qualifiers and so deprive themselves of the pleasure of reading the work for its own sake (and even of discovering that it isn't so "difficult" after all).

I've posted about the problem of the academy's intervention between the reader and the text before. I'll also add that terms such as "difficult" and "pleasurable" create false dichotomies in that they are entirely subjective words that only serve to make judgments for others, denying individuals the right to think for themselves.

I was very interested to read about Miriam Burstein's current adventure in teaching The Erasers to a group of freshmen. I hope she posts more about the class as time goes on. This is what higher education should be about--introducing students to something different (and maybe even a little strange) and seeing what they make of it.

If only attitudes about art could be those of exploration--even adventure!--and not of holier-than-thou, too-serious boredom (regardless of whether this be the fault of critics or even of the authors themselves). Let the readers decide.

08 March 2008

The little rat that could

Sam Savage's Firmin (previously celebrated by The Litblog Co-op) has been translated into Spanish (and twelve other languages) to critical acclaim. This morning, El Tiempo posted the laudatory article, "The novel 'Firmin,' a rat's passion for reading, has become a complete publishing phenomenon." It says that in Spain alone, over 50,000 copies of the book have been published and it is currently in its eighth edition.

The article contains a lovely little book trailer that has clips of writers such as Rodrigo Fresán praising the story, as well as showing Chilean illustrator Fernando Krahn's other drawings of Firmin. There is also a PDF of the first chapter (in Spanish) and an audio interview with Seix Barral editorial director Elena Ramírez, who says that this is the first time that a publisher in Spain has acquired the global rights (for all translations) of a book whose original language is not Spanish.

Other writers also comment on their love for this book:
Para el escritor colombiano Mario Mendoza, esta "es una novela donde se muestra el desarrollo de la conciencia a lo largo de un proceso de lectura. No leemos para acumular cultura, sino porque los libros nos permiten ver pliegues y matices en la realidad que enfrentamos todos los días. Firmin es eso: una apología de la riqueza y la multiplicidad que sólo nos puede otorgar el lenguaje".

A su turno, la escritora española Rosa Montero la define como una "aguda fábula sobre la condición humana. Un disparo al corazón".

Un personaje que como lo comenta en su crítica sobre el libro Javier Aparicio Maydeu, en el suplemento cultural Babelia del diario español El País, "conmueve para siempre con sus lecciones de humanidad, sentido del humor y aguda sátira de nuestro loco mundo, nos empuja a leer aún más y nos impide volver a gritar ¡malditos roedores!".
Elsewhere in today's edition, Bogotá inaugurates six new libraries at six stops on the city's metro line, part of a new literacy initiative.

06 March 2008

Fallible human voices

The 92nd Street Y blog has a video clip of Robert Alter and Marilynne Robinson discussing the former's recent translation of The Book of Psalms (the viewing of which immediately improved the quality of my day):

Aside from the interesting discussion of translation and the structure of Hebrew poetry, I was captivated by what Robinson had to say about the writers of the Bible:
They feel weakness and you feel the burden of their humanity in something that is nevertheless received as being a sacred testimony. You know, I mean, it seems to me that that's one of the most poignant and powerful things about scripture--that it situates the testimony of the sacred in fallible human voices, which are only extraordinary, only more beautiful, because you sense the frailty. The frailty's insisted upon. And here we have this enormous disproportion between the grandeur of God that's reported in the psalm and the sense of the presumed triviality of the human person, the human perceiver of these stars, and so on. You know, the psalm says, You crowned human beings; you gave them the glory that they have and, therefore, even though it is, in a sense, secondary to what they are, it is also utterly real, you know. There's just an extraordinary complexity of the human presence, the human testimony in a sacred literature. It's very, very remarkable.
On Sunday night when we heard that Chávez was sending troops to our border, lines from Psalm 27 that I had memorized as a child ran through my head. Here they are in Alter's translation:
Though a camp is marshaled against me,
           my heart shall not fear.
Though battle is roused against me,
           nonetheless do I trust.
(via ReadySteadyBlog)

04 March 2008

Personal note

This litblog is entirely about literature, not my personal life, politics, or anything else. But due to the current situation and the ramifications on myself and my family, things have slown down a little and may continue to do so in the coming days. I am a very slow (and somewhat reluctant) writer (albeit an avid reader!) and need much time and energy in order to post. Like many difficult things, I've found it incredibly rewarding and have grown to love it. I hope to continue to find joy in writing and discussing literature and not let myself get waylaid by the darkness as we continue to struggle toward peace.

I have thoughts on César Aira, Fernando Pessoa, and a marvelous little book by Guillermo Martínez (on Borges and mathematics) in draft form still waiting. This is a note to remind myself of where my energies should be channeled, regardless of the fear knocking at our door.

I think Auden would forgive me for placing this here (so I don't forget):
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Another disappointment?

Trailers for the film adaptation of Vargas Llosa's La fiesta del chivo are now online. (I'm sure Junot Díaz is thrilled.) The film features Isabella Rossellini, Tomás Milián, Juan Diego Botto, Stephanie Leónidas, Paul Freeman, David Zayas, Steven Bauer, Eileen Atkins, Pericles Mejía, Murphy Guyer, and Carlos Miranda.

I'm disappointed that they decided to shoot it in English and don't have very high hopes for it in general.

(via El Tiempo)

02 March 2008

Giving stuff away

Neil Gaiman explains why putting books online for free is a good thing:
I'm currently talking to Harpers about ways we can make the American Gods online reading experience a more pleasant one. And about ways to give American Gods away that would make Harper Collins happy while also making, say, Cory Doctorow happy too.

I was surprised by a few emails coming in from people accusing me of doing bad things for other authors by giving anything away -- the idea being, I think, that by handing out a bestselling book for nothing I'm devaluing what a book is and so forth, which I think is silly.

I like giving stuff away. I think it's sensible. [...]

During one of the interviews recently, a reporter said something like, "Of course, a real publisher wouldn't give away paper books," and I pointed out that 3,000 copies of The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy were given away by Douglas Adams' publisher, with a 'write in and get your free book' ad in Rolling Stone. They wanted copies of HHGTTG on campuses in the US, and they wanted people to read it and tell other people. Word of mouth is still the best tool for selling books.
As he points out in an interview with the Guardian,
"It's much more about gaining an audience than about some one-to-one correlation," he said. "It's a question of how do you find new writers." People often come to new authors in a library, on a friend's bookshelves, or by a personal recommendation, he explained. It "doesn't always begin with a financial transaction. I very much doubt that I discovered a single one of my favourite authors by buying a book." [...]

"The problem is not people who read books for nothing," he said, "it's people not reading books at all. You're fighting the fact that people don't read recreationally [any more]. Anything that can help has got to be a good thing."
I also agree with Bud about the ease of reading PDFs and think that if more books would become available this way, I wouldn't really need an eReader. I'm currently on page 92 of American Gods and it's occurred to me that a lot of people are probably unaware of how much reading online they already do. I've probably read what amounts to thousand-page volumes in blog posts in the past year alone...

01 March 2008

Díaz's problem with Vargas Llosa

No hay nada más injusto que lo justo.
Nothing is more unjust than what is just.
--Lope de Vega

Last September, Callie took down a few book recommendations that Junot Díaz gave at a local reading. He mentioned Francisco Goldman's The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? and made a rather startling statement:
"Goldman is a genius. After reading his work, I threw all my Mario Vargas Llosa books out the window. That guy is a criminal."
Having read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I know that Díaz isn't crazy about Vargas Llosa's depiction of the Trujillo regime in La Fiesta del Chivo (believing that even this is too tame) and considers Julia Álvarez's En el tiempo de las Mariposas to be the better book. But why "criminal"?

It took me two days to read Goldman's heartbreaking, incisive account of Father Gerardi's murder, the Guatemalan government's involvement, and the subsequent trials. Aside from being such a riveting story, I deeply appreciated Goldman's ability to clearly yet meticulously follow this Byzantine example of the nature of politics in Latin America. He does a compelling job of conveying the fantastic nature of what happens without giving in to exoticism or hyperbole. I also very much identified with his personal connection to his work and the complexity of what it means to belong to two very different countries.

Towards the end of the book, Goldman himself explains his view of Vargas Llosa's essay, which supports ¿Quién mató al obispo?: Autopsia de un crimen político by Maite Rico and Bertrand de la Grange--a defense of two of the accused military men and a completely different take on who the culprits could be:
It is reasonable to assume that when Mario Vargas Llosa wrote his essay on the Gerardi case and on the book Who Killed the Bishop? for El País, he was convinced of the truth of what he was writing. It may have been overly eager, unguarded ideological sympathy or prejudice; or the vanity of a Great Man of Letters, seduced, after many decades of adulation, into a sense of his own infallibility; or a case of what Borges had in mind when he wrote that no man, outside his own specialty, is not gullible; or some combination of these that led the distinguished novelist to accept at face value an extraordinarily controversial book's most far-fetched assertions as facts not requiring independent verification, and then to join his voice to the book's smears and accusations.
I read this as a cautionary tale of the ideological danger of being outside of Latin America for too long. European myopia is infamous around here--so much confusion and wrong interpretation of what actually goes on boiled down to a simplistic left and right dichotomy. And even that isn't fully understood.

As someone unfamiliar with the case before reading Goldman's book, it is very tempting to take "sides"--but I have not read the Rico-De la Grange book or any other information about the case. I can see where the arguments and counter-arguments fit, and the possible weak spots of Goldman's account (although it is incredibly well researched and seems to blow their theories apart). Some think Goldman didn't address the whole story. Ilan Stavans' review for the LA Times takes a more measured approach in analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of Goldman's account.

The Guatemala Solidarity Network's blog briefly explains the situation (and I find myself agreeing with their conclusion):
One of the aspects of this publication is the involvement of outsiders in writing about the internal workings of the Guatemalan criminal justice system in one of the most high profile cases that pitted many power blocks against one another: the Catholic church, the military, organised crime, and the political establishments past (Government of Alvaro Arzu) and of the moment at the time (Alfonso Portillo).

Francisco Goldman as US writer of Guatemalan origin steps into the debate following Maite Rico (Spanish) and Bertrand de la Grange (French) book "Quien mato al obispo?". In it, they point to the complicity of parts of the Catholic church, the human rights community and organised crime in the murder of Juan Gerardi. They maintain that the military men Byron Lima Estrada and Byron Lima Oliva (sentenced to 30 years prison) are innocent of the murder.

Rico and De la Grange's account was supported by many outsiders, including famously Mario Vargas Llosa in El Pais. When Goldman suggests in his book that Rico and De la Grange received money from Arzu to write their book, they responded angrily and in sarcastic tone in El Periodico. According to Inforpress Centroamericana is wasn't the only time Rico and De la Grange had been accused of receiving Government money for a book. Suspicions were raised that the Mexican Government had participated in the publication of their book (Marcos: La Genial Impostura) critical of subcommandante Marcos. It's a very tangled web to be sure. Whatever the truth, anyone following this tragic episode in any depth, beginning with the events of 26th April 1998, gets the nagging sense that the whole story and all its ins and outs, will ultimately remain elusive. At the very least, Goldman's work has reignited a hope that the contrary will one day be true.
Opinions can be dangerous things. Well-respected individuals can't be too careful about which ideas they support and the implications of lending credibility to an issue without researching it thoroughly. We could all stand to be more careful.

NOTE: The Open Society Institute hosted a forum with Francisco Goldman, in which he discussed his book and how he became serious about writing it. It's a fascinating listen...

I wonder when this book will be translated into Spanish?