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Kamchatka [Hardcover]

Marcelo Figueras
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: £14.99
Price: £9.25 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

1 Sep 2010
In Buenos Aires, in the mid-Seventies, a ten-year-old boy lives in world of school lessons and Superman comics, TV shows and games of Risk - a world in which men have superpowers and boys can conquer the globe on a square of cardboard. But in the outside world, a military junta have taken power; and amid a political climate of fear and intimidation, people are beginning to disappear without trace - when his mother unexpectedly takes the boy and his kid brother out of classes, she tells them they're going on an impromptu family 'holiday'. But he soon realizes that the rules of the game are shifting. This will be no holiday: his parents are known supporters of the opposition, and they are going into hiding - holed up in a ramshackle safe-house in the remote hills outside the city, they assume new identities and make believe that life continues as normal. Naming himself Harry, after his hero Houdini, the boy spends his days of enforced exile learning the secrets of escape. And in a world of seeming chaos and uncertainty, he attempts to imagine he has control over himself and his surroundings. A deeply moving and wise novel, written with immense heart, "Kamchatka" is an adventure story about a young boy forced to square fantasy against reality when reality and all its trappings - family, politics, history, and time itself - are more improbable than any fiction. Ultimately, it is a novel about the imaginative spaces we retreat to when we need to make sense of an unimaginable world.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843548267
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843548263
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,104,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

38

`Figueras - a bestseller across the Spanish-speaking world - writes with power and insight about the ways in which a child uses imagination to make sense of a terrifying and baffling reality.' --Kate Saunders, The Times

`In this brilliant coming- of-age novel, Marcelo Figueras does not offer a conventional portrait of Argentina's brutal past... he covers a variety of subjects, from the life- changing to the banal, gradually drawing them together. By the end, we realised the hardest lesson Harry has learned is how to survive horror and bear loss.' --Independent

'Both sorrow and exile permeate this brilliantly observed, heartrending novel'
--Financial Times

'Figueras - a bestseller across the Spanish-speaking world - writes with power and insight about the ways in which a child uses imagination to make sense of a terrifying and baffling reality.' --Kate Saunders, The Times

'Both sorrow and exile permeate this brilliantly observed, heartrending novel' --Financial Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Marcelo Figueras, born in Buenos Aires in 1962, is a writer and a screenwriter.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars five star argentina fiction 19 July 2011
Format:Paperback
Marcelo Figueras is an Argentina writer and film maker born in the early sixties he has written four novels and wrote for various spanish magazines ,This is his first book to be translated into english

The last thing papa said to me ,the last word from his lips ,was "Kamchatka " .

He kissed me ,his stubble scratching my cheek ,then climbed into the Citroen .The car moved of along the undulating ribbon of road ,a green bubble bobbing into view with every hill,getting smaller and smaller until I couldn't see it any More .

The open ,what did his father mean !

Right the book ,it is set in seventies just after a coup and the period called the dirty war ,the book is narrated by a ten-year old boy ,for most of the book called Harry a name chosen by the young boy as his hero is the legendary escape artist Harry Houdini ,as he parts Left wingers are forced to flee their home in Buenos Aires to head to a safe house in the back and beyond of Argentine .the book is divide into parts each relating to a school day ,This book is from Harry's point of view and a bit like Wil Wheaton says in stand by me the days when you're the age before you discover girls are the best and this is Harry ,yes there is Danger but Harry is more interest in Tv and drinking Nesquik .he talks about the Midget it took me a couple mentions to realised this was his younger brother a close relationship beautifully portrayed .Harry compares people he meets to the characters he sees on tv mainly from his favourite show Invaders ,which I vaguely remember seeing as a Kid myself .also the saint which I loved myself as a kid .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Propped up on top of my book shelves is a grainy black and white photo of a young couple that I bought in March in Cordoba, Argentina, at a museum dedicated to the thousands of people who disappeared during the military dictatorship. My photo shows Liliana Barrios. The information on the back tells that she was the mother of two young children and was executed by the junta in 1976.

Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras is set in this dark period of Argentina's recent past. Two young boys move with their parents from Buenos Aires to a safe house in the country. The elder one (never named) is increasingly resentful of leaving his friends and his toys. When his parents tell the boys to adopt new names he chooses Harry after his hero Harry Houdini. He practises holding his breath, tying knots and developing his strength and escapes into a fantasy world of comic book superheroes, Robin Hood, King Arthur and The Invaders. The story is recounted by Harry in a mixture of child-like naÔvety and adult philosophy. This could have been irritating but actually it works very well. The writing is straightforward but bursting with ideas and childish observations.

Kamchatka could have been a very depressing book but there is humour throughout. The loving parents could have come over as saints but Harry finds them constantly annoying and difficult. He feels his younger brother, Midget, has inbuilt destructive powers and was put on earth to punish him.

At the heart of the book is the metaphor of Kamchatka - the semi-mythical place of refuge and safety from the board game Risk. By escaping to Kamchatka Harry is eventually able to come to terms with his family's tragic history.

The translation is excellent. Frank Wynne-Jones has succeeded in translating the many jokes and puns - not the easiest of tasks.

This is a beautifully written and cleverly crafted novel with hardly a surplus word. Highly recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
The past is neither dead nor past in Marcelo Figueras' beautifully crafted Kamchatka.

The Kamchatka Peninsula is the northeastern-most part of Russia and the old Soviet Union. It is surrounded by the Bering Sea, the Arctic, and the Pacific oceans. It was a cold-forbidding place, one that served as the destination point for thousands of Soviet citizens sent to spend time in the Gulag. It is also one of geographic points of interest in the old military board game Risk. The idea of Kamchatka, as set out in the board game, as a place of exile, and ultimately as a place of refuge forms the emotional core of the book around which the story revolves.

Set in Argentina in 1976, Kamchatka is the story of a young boy and his family. Argentina in 1976 was a dangerous place. The regime of Isabel Peron was ousted in a military coup followed by some extraordinarily repressive measures against suspected opponents of the junta. Thousands of people disappeared and most all of them were murdered. Kamchatka is the story of one family. Kamchatka is told in the form of a memoir written by Harry as he is known to us. Harry was 10 when the story begins. His parents are opponents of the regime and in short order Harry and his family flee from Buenos Aires to a secluded `summer cottage' where they can, hopefully, survive until the troubles are over. The family all take new names, the boy chooses to become Harry in honor of his boyhood hero, Harry Houdini.

The act of memory, of remembering, is critical to the story-line. Early on Figueras writes that sometimes, "as I remember, my voice is that of the ten-year-old boy I was then; sometimes the voice of the seventy-year-old man I am yet to be; sometimes it is my voice, at the age I am now . . . or the age I think I am.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Book Club read
Didn't break my heart as per cover description. Found it light weight and in places poor grammar in translation - maybe as a representation of a young boy. Read more
Published 5 months ago by David Nellist
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful statement about life during the Dirty War
This book, the author's first in English, was published in Spanish in 2003 and this translation, by Frank Wynne, dates from 2010. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Dr R
5.0 out of 5 stars Love over adversity!
This book is beautifully written. The narrator is a 10 years old boy, living in grim times in his country, when life is increasingly dangerous for him and his family. Read more
Published 23 months ago by H. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Kamchatka will never sound the same
This book reads like a memoir but is in fact a novel about life for a little boy in 1970s Argentina. Read more
Published 23 months ago by lilysmum
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book,great service
We read this for our book club and it was the first for a while that was universally liked. A remarkable story seen through a child's eyes of a time of great danger and uncertainty... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Mrs. Tessa Atkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Argentina
This wonderful book is set in Argentina during the terrible coup when the generals took over so it is very sad at times but is also a wonderful description of childhood. Read more
Published on 6 Aug 2012 by Lynne Owen
3.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, well written but not a 'must read'
The book is written at a nice pace in a very simple, easy to read language. The author does a wonderful job of describing a child's view of a complicated political situation and... Read more
Published on 13 Oct 2011 by anonymous
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