A SQUARE CALLED SILENCE by Desmond Meiring

A SQUARE CALLED SILENCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Set in modern Caracas during Betancourt's regime, this novel, by an international reporter, is concerned with a family of Spanish emigres who left Spain after the Civil War. The story focusses on a brother and sister who have spent most of their lives in the sheltered privilege of Venezuela's upper class. Mercedes and Juan Ramon have been the recipients of the guilt-ridden beneficences of a wealthy uncle whose fortunes remained untouched by Spain's upheaval. Mercedes, now in her early thirties, the wife of her father's compatriot and the mother of two children, finds herself bored and restless with her withdrawn husband and with their empty round of cocktail parties among Caracas' banal and corrupt social elite. When she meets Raoul, a mysterious man (made more so by the fact that we never really learn much about him) at one of these events, she is ready for an affair which in her case ripens into love. At the same time her younger brother Juan who for all his life has been a professional student, has become caught up in the left wing politics at the University and he is an active member of the anti-Betancourt Liberation movement engaged in various terrorist activities. Both Mercedes and Juan are idealistic, passionate, ill-content with the meaninglessness of their assigned social milieu and it is their very good qualities which prove their downfall. Mercedes is shattered to discover that she is only one of Raoul's stable of women and Juan is eventually killed on a Liberation sortie. The author manages to make their fates of some consequence to the reader but through much of the book his major obstacle seems to be the density of his own writing and the temptation (not overcome) to demonstrate his own intelligence. The former handicapped his first novel The Brinkman (1965).

Pub Date: April 6th, 1966
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin