The radicalization, more or less, of a rich, unhappy young Colombian man--in a lean, faintly surreal, distinctly nightmarish...



The radicalization, more or less, of a rich, unhappy young Colombian man--in a lean, faintly surreal, distinctly nightmarish novel by ""the son of a powerful, old Colombian family."" The author's alter-ego, then, is Santiago Villalba, illegitimate offspring of a Colombian tycoon/power-broker who is mortally ill in the hospital as the novel begins; Santiago, who has always hated this neglectful, rejecting father, impulsively speeds the old man to his death by smothering him with a pillow. But now Santiago, the sole heir, must face the burden of vast, tainted wealth: his father's holdings, it turns out, include marijuana plantations; his even more powerful father-in-law (an evil figure whom Santiago, while in transvestite garb, rapes at a decadent nightclub) insists that Santiago continue the family tradition of drugs and government corruption; similar advice comes from Santiago's old chum Mario, cocaine-snorting son of Colombia's president, and from Mario's Halston-garbed girlfriend Caridad (who turns out to be Colombia's Secret Police chief). And after Santiago's suicidal, pregnant wife is murdered, presumably by rival forces in the marijuana market, he does indeed sink into a stupor of drugs, brutality (raping his young housemaid), and amorality--even taking the figurehead post of Minister of Public Information for the military-controlled government. But finally, having witnessed the plight of imprisoned dissidents and the black-comic ruthlessness of Caridad & Co., Santiago will end up on the side of the angels--symbolically hacking his dead father's cadaver to pieces, receiving the sword of Simon Bolivar from the girl whom he raped. ("" 'Santiago,' she said, 'now it's up to us.' "") Manrique displays none of the stylistic flair found in so many other contemporary Latin-American writers. And, perhaps in part because of translation problems, the tone throughout--with its balance between anger and spaciness, realism and fantasy--seems tentative. But, while the radicalization windup (as usual in such novels) arrives without much conviction, there are effective moments all along the way--from the casual monstrosity of chic Caridad to the often-convincing tours of Colombia's government-supported drug manipulations.

Pub Date: May 15, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Potter--dist. by Crown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983