"Kamchatka" by Marcelo Figueras

I’ve read quite a few novels about Argentina’s “Dirty War” of the 1970s and this one was definitely one of the most enjoyable.  Packed with myth, metaphor, and symbolism, the difference between this novel and all the others I have read on the same subject is that this one is from the point of view of a child - a ten year old child - who is growing up during the height of the horror.   

 

Told from two simultaneous points of view - that of the ten year old child and as an adult looking back - the narrator is whisked away from his normal life due to his parents political activities and brought to a safe house in the outskirts of Argentina to live a life under assumed identities.  The political activities of the parents are never fully explained or expounded upon but you know it is there - all seen through the eyes of a child and his struggle to understand the changing world around him.  He is vaguely aware of what’s going on but his world is filled with comic books, games of Risk, television shows and a book of one of his heroes, escape artist Harry Houdini (which also serves as a metaphor throughout the novel.)  

 

The one thing I took away from this story - other than its political implications - is that children’s experiences are basically the same, despite the geographical distances - especially since the age of the narrator in the story would have been the same age I was in 1976 when the majority of the story takes place.  This is a very intense story in a lot of ways but its written in such a way that you are taken into the child’s world, traveling along beside him with all the innocence and wonder as well as the sense of fear and escape. 

 

Highly recommended.