Friday, January 18, 2008

Not your usual Detective Story

Here's an intriguing, little novella if you are looking for a gripping story that you can read in one sitting. Detective Story by Imre Kertesz, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature a few years ago, was originally published in 1977, but has just been re-issued with a new English translation by Tim Wilkinson. The story takes place in an unnamed South American country and our narrator, Antonio Martens, is currently in jail awaiting his sentence for his involvement in the murders of Federigo and Enrique Salinas, a wealthy father and son who owned a chain of department stores. As Martens informs us, "I wish to tell a story. A simple story. You may ultimately call it a sickening one, but that does not change its simpleness. I wish therefore to tell a simple and sickening story."
Sickening it may be, but simple it is not. As Martens writes his version of events, we follow his downward trajectory from simple police cop to becoming a member of the Corps, a secret police organization responsible for more political and sinister activities leading to torture and murder. But Martens has also obtained Enrique's diary and liberally inserts sections of it into his narrative, so that we also get the story of a spoiled idealist whose naivety leads to tragedy. There is a wonderfully sustained suspense throughout this universal story about bad choices and their inevitable consequences.

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