The islands by Carlos Gamerro

The Islands by Carlos Gamerro

Argentinian fiction

Translated by Ian Barnett with Carlos Gamerro

source review copy

Carlos Gamerro  born in 1962 ,studied literature  in Buenos Aires .He then became a visiting fellow in Cambridge .He is also a translator of English into Spanish he has translated Auden and Harold Blooms works into Spanish,He has also lived in Gibraltar for a time so has a small insight into the british side of the story   .Although this is his  second book published in English ,this was actually  his début novel he has so far written five novel .This book is also now a play as well .

Now this is the second book by Carlos Gamerro I’ve read in the last twelve months the first was open secret a story about the dirty war and the aftermath on one village in Argentina .Now in this book ” The islands” (Las Isla )is another story set in Argentina recent past .This time it is set in 1992 but looking back at the Falklands war .For those of you outside the UK I explain The Fakland islands are archipelago  of  2 large islands and 700 small islands that over its history had swapped through many hands til in 1833 it came under British rule ,but it has been disputed with its nearest neighbour Argentina that state a claim on the islands or as the call them Las Malvinas .This book is timely with the 30th anniversary of the war and also a recent heightening of the tension between the UK government and Argentina government over the sovereignty  of the islandsthis year   .So this dispute reach a new height in 1982 when Argentina invade the islands .This is where The Islands starts in 1992 a Computer Hacker Felipe Felix  is summoned to the Headquarters of a large company and the boss Fausto Tamerlan .Fausto wants Felipe to find out who witness a crime committed by his son  .Another son was in the Falklands .Then add in a armadillo shell stuffed with treasure and we have the start of a novel of multiple strands and some dead ends .

He opened them to look at me .

” My son killed someone ” ; he said .” in this very room .Threw him out of that window “.He pointed to the one immediately behind me .”Five nights ago .To explain what your job will be .You’ve been allowed a privilege reserved for a happy few ;to penetrate to the heart of the diamond .

Sr Tamerlan tells Felipe why he summoned him to the office .


Now Felipe is a man scared by the war himself his is a sort hacker come private investigator ,he spent the last ten years since the war in drugs and the virtual on-line world trying to escape the horrors he saw and the time he spent in a freezing trench on the islands .Now Felipe still knows all the right people knowing some veterans from the conflict ,via this he knows some one in SIDE the Argentina’s secret services .He finds out via hacking the computer files at SIDE that a certain major may have been involved in the son’s crime via the majors wife .But this major was also a dark figure from dirty war that wrote his diary about his time on the island .we view his world via his diary

25TH May 1982 – A glorious national holiday .We celebrated with a barbecue ,which improved the morale of the rank and file ,in spite of the two sheep that we sacrifice barely satisfying our hunger . The scarcity of provisions is alarming .Later ,after handing round some steaming mugs of mate ,which the Kelpers eagerly drank .I made a sort speech declaring them full Argentinian citizens .

from the diary of Major x ,Kelpers is the nickname for the Faklander islanders .

Oh rather like open secret was The island is a complex piece of writing crossing genres part war novel,part crime story ,part spy novel ,part road trip ,part confessional ,part cyber thriller .The  list is endless .a stream of different styles that take you into a mad world of broken men ,dead men ,dreams of grandeur and nightmares of defeat all play a part .We see the reasons for the war and the outfall from the Argentinian  point of view .Now I was only ten when the war happened and my memories are of the British side of the war .But I found this interview with Carlos on line quite enlightening .The war was quite horrific for both sides and as much as my memories before reading this novel are of the union jack flying and some of our troops that suffered horrific injuries ,this book opened my eyes to the suffering and the broken dreams of the men that went to chase a dream of capturing what to them was a dream of a better future and Felipe is one of those men . And in that future men of power still try to cover the crimes that are going on in the present as well as the past.He said Burroughs and Pynchon were influences whilst writing this book and I can see it has a twisted style like Burroughs and the scope of Pynchon works .This another read for spanish lit month

Have you read Carlos Gamerro ?


July 2012


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