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Book review: <i>El Infierno</i> by Carlos Martinez Moreno


Okay, so I didn't get through this one. It's not because it isn't good. It could be because too many mainstream thrillers have desicated my brain like a coconut. It could be that I just can't face this brand of highbrow literature in the heat. Or it could be that I just don't feel like finishing it right now. Whatever the case, I have a feeling that "It's not you, it's me" would be the correct thing to say to El Infierno, and one day I might pick it up again and have another go. When I'm feeling more intellectual, and the weather is cooler and more conducive to thought, perhaps.

The story

El Infierno is set in Uraguay and documents the events of the late sixties/early seventies - the urban guerrillas and whatnot. The settings are varied each chapter flits from jails to beaches to farmland to cities. There are also many characters, and it is difficult to tell how they all relate to each other, and when the first person narration is occuring which character is actually speaking. Each chapter relates a different perspective and point of the aborted revolution, and while the writing is very poigant and undeniably good, you have to read it with one hundred and ten percent concerntration (which I seem to have sadly lacking). There are little excerpts from Dante's Inferno at the top of each chapter, which are like metaphors for what is occuring in the chapter. Maybe I would be better served actually KNOWING something about the whole Uraguay experience before attempting the book again!

The style

Okay. El Infierno is excellently written. The book has a lyrical, prose-y quality that is really very moving and powerful. The hither and thither style of narration is probably what has led me to discard it at this time; while I like a mystery as much as the next girl, I don't want to be reading beautiful prose and spend the whole time thinking "who is this? Is it that guy? Oh, no wait, it can't be... maybe it's someone new? Oh, that name he mentioned is familiar..." It's one thing not to spoonfeed your reader, it's another to leave them wondering what the hell is going on the whole time. However, I will qualify this with saying that this confused style of writing lends itself to the whole feeling of revolution and war; with the desperation, the cutting off of people's stories abruptly, the smell of death in the air. There are lots of different characters in the story, and it is told from a variety of perspectives. All in all, I really enjoy the IDEA of this book. And I will definitely try to pick it up again at some stage.

Who is this book for?

People who love the classics, because it's a bit of a slog, but in a good way. It isn't your standard "read at the bus-stop" fare... unless you are really very awake and clever on the bus. It's also for people who like Latin American literature; but I find, for example, Isabelle Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez far easier reads than this guy. It does have that whole Latin American feel and style to it though.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Other Latin American authors, such as the ones I mentioned above. There is quite a wide selection of Latin American revolution literature out there; it's a popular topic and the region is blessed with an excellent selection of authors and poets to bring it to life.

In short

Title: El Infierno
Author: Carlos Martinez Moreno
Publisher: Readers International
ISBN: 0930523482
Year published: 1981
Pages: 266
Genre(s): Contemporary literature, Political, War
Review Type: