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Red April    by Santiago Roncagliolo order for
Red April
by Santiago Roncagliolo
Order:  USA  Can
Pantheon, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Santiago Roncagliolo's Red April (translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman) takes place in Peru from March 9th to May 3rd in the year 2000. This is a frightening and horrifying fictional account of actual happenings.

A charred body is brought to the desk of Felix Chacaltana Saldivar, an associate district prosecutor who, if not perfectly happy with his life, does not expect anything from it. He does his job and is haunted by the mother who died when he was a child. He keeps a room just for her and talks to her about everything. He knows she is dead but it comforts him to pretend that she can hear him. Keeping her memory alive proves very important to him and he shields her from the vicissitudes of life while he plows through the bumbling and corrupt bureaucracy to right what he thinks is wrong.

When the body appears, he finds it strange that no one of the higher ups will read his reports or even consent to see him. The 1980s and '90s were a cruel time in Peru, which was bathed in blood by the rebels of the Shining Path who slaughtered mountain villagers and made others disappear, never to be seen again. The moral bankruptcy of the government's counterinsurgency lives in the minds of Peruvians and they have no desire to help officials solve what appears to be a murder.

The honest associate prosecutor travels outside Lima to a town in the mountains, only to find more death and bloodletting. When officials praise him for his work, he is suspicious of their words.

While fictional, Red April tells the real, sad tale of those times in what is such a beautiful country with lovely, welcoming people. Man's inhumanity to man never ceases to repulse me while I accept the fact that it does exist. The author must have found it hard to write of his countrymen's travails. I found it hard to read. 'Tis said that truth is stranger than fiction. How apt in this case. I highly recommend Red April to you.

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