2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"Being a good guy didn't mean you were guaranteed a happy ending",
This review is from: Kamchatka (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.