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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Red April

Santiago Roncagliolo

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To purchase Red April

Title: Red April
Author: Santiago Roncagliolo
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 269 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Red April - US
Abril rojo - US
Red April - UK
Red April - Canada
Red April - India
Avril rouge - France
Roter April - Deutschland
I delitti della settimana santa - Italia
Red April - España
  • Spanish title: Abril rojo
  • Abril rojo was awarded the Premio Alfaguara de Novela, 2006
  • Translated by Edith Grossman
  • Independent Foreign Fiction Prize winner, 2011

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting political/social/cultural thriller

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 24/11/2008 Walter Haubrich
The Guardian . 29/5/2010 Maya Jaggi
Independent on Sunday . 11/4/2010 Michael Eaude
NZZ B- 6/5/2008 Leopold Federmair
TLS . 8/12/2006 Michael Kerrigan
Die Zeit . 3/4/2008 Tobias Gohlis

  From the Reviews:
  • "Für einen Kriminalroman ist die Erzählhandlung zu ungeschickt konstruiert. Das Buch wird erst im letzten Teil zu einer spannenden Lektüre. Dem peruanischen Schriftsteller waren die Details aus der tragischen Geschichte seines Landes zu wichtig, um sie nicht ausführlich und differenziert darzustellen." - Walter Haubrich, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Edith Grossman's versatile translation spans hard-boiled noir, punctilious legalese, and the illiterate scrawls of a would-be serial killer. (...) In hinting at how impunity is perpetuated in a fog of lies, and how means corrupt ends in a war on terror, Red April is rooted in Peru's past and present, but resonates far beyond." - Maya Jaggi, The Guardian

  • "Red April, faithfully translated by Edith Grossman, can be better read as a courageous investigation of an all-too-real contemporary reality. In a direct, easy style, Roncagliolo uses the techniques of a police procedural thriller to tell the terrible story of a society without hope." - Michael Eaude, Independent on Sunday

  • "Roncagliolo zieht die Fäden des Thrillers recht geschickt, er legt jede Menge falsche Fährten, um die Neugier des Lesers wachzuhalten. Die Sprache erinnert häufig an Hard-boiled-Krimis, mitsamt Klischees und Trivialitäten. Dass Roter April nicht wirklich als gelungen bezeichnet werden kann, liegt nicht an der methodischen Verwendung von Genre-Elementen, sondern an der Figurengestaltung." - Leopold Federmair, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "The killer is writing a richly allusive text, then, but it is one to which Roncagliolo is fully capable of doing justice: the second half of this novel is a tour de force. Suspense builds excruciatingly against the great festive crescendo that is Ayacucho's Holy Week, with its heady mix of iconography and emotion. (...) Look beyond the cadavers on the coroner's slab and you see a murdered and mutilated body politic, a country sunk in cynicism and lies. We never do find out its secrets, but this novel teaches us to look askance at its every expression of identity, from the most atavistic to the most modern and progressive." - Michael Kerrigan, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Red April takes place from March through early May, 2000, largely in the provincial Peruvian city of Ayacucho. Associate District Prosecutor Félix Chacaltana Saldívar was recently transferred here from Lima -- the reverse of everyone's ambition. He requested the transfer: after the dissolution of his marriage he wanted to come back to his hometown, and his mother. His mother has long been dead, but she really, really lives on in his memory; indeed, at home he behaves as if she were still alive and right there with him .....
       The mousy, pedantic prosecutor tries to be exact as possible in his official reports, but no one really wants the truth spelled out all too clearly. Even as he carefully and precisely twists the facts to the stories that have been decided on -- there are a few examples of his hilarious but sincere reports -- it eventually become clear to him that:

It had nothing to do with what was really important. In reality, none of his reports had anything to do with what was important. He thought the relevant information was precisely what the report did not contain
       When, early on, he sees a connection to the Shining Path terrorists, who -- so the official line -- are no longer seen to pose a threat, and when he presses his case with the authorities, things grow a whole lot more complicated. He's sent on assignment as an election monitor -- clearly an excuse to get him out of the way (perhaps permanently ...), and when he returns finds he is completely out of the loop, a ghost in the Ministry of Justice: "No one had assigned him work. Not even an indictment, not even a memorandum."
       Chacaltana remains stubborn, and continues to investigate. He encounters a good deal of unpleasantness, many locals looking the other way, and authorities who have their own way of taking care of business. And Chacaltana soon finds he has another problem: as he explains to a(n unfortunate) priest:
     "All the people I talk to die, Father. I'm afraid. It's ... it's as if I were signing their death sentences when I leave them."
       With events culminating in the celebrations of Holy Week, the frenzy of violence comes ever closer, pulling Chacaltana into it.
       Along the way the prosecutor befriends a young woman named Edith, a relationship slowly developing between them -- though Mamacita and the prosecutor's devotion to her present something of an obstacle there. And Edith's dead parents also complicate matters.
       As someone tells Chacaltana:
Ayacucho is a strange place. The Wari culture was here, and then the Chancas, who never let themselves be conquered by the Incas. And then the indigenous rebellions, because Ayacucho was the midway point between Cuzco, the Inca capital, and Lima, the capital of the Spaniards. And independence in Quinua. And Sendero. This place is doomed to be bathed in blood and fire forever, Chacaltana. Why ? I have no idea. It doesn't matter. We can't do anything.
       Red April is an intriguing if somewhat messy thriller, with no easy answers and culpability (of different sorts) all around. Chacaltana is, for the most part, an appealingly clueless figure in this world gone bad, though his own transformation seems a bit much by the end; his relationship with Edith also strains some credulity. Nevertheless, it's a solid portrait of a place steeped almost hopelessly in the completely corrupted, with little sense of hope for change or a better future.
       A somewhat uneasy mix of political and crime thriller, Roncagliolo does paint some very vivid and powerful scenes -- but it is of a dark and desolate world.

- M.A.Orthofer, 5 July 2009

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Red April: Reviews: Other books by Santiago Roncagliolo under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Peruvian author Santiago Roncagliolo was born in 1975.

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© 2009-2023 the complete review

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