A keenly romantic tale of loss and solace from Italian novelist de Luca (God’s Mountain, 2002, etc.).
The book’s unnamed hero is the archetypal man in flight from his past after his true love, Dvora, is assassinated during a war in Argentina. First he is a lone guerilla, fighting the regime that murdered Dvora, then a fugitive living off the meager land in Patagonia. Smuggled to the Falklands by a sympathetic ship’s captain, he is rescued from his military pursuers by invading British troops. This part of the story is told in flashbacks. The hero is now living in an Italian town where he works as a gardener, intimate only with his plants and with the books he reads every night after work. As the novel begins, he embarks on an affair with Laila, an enigmatic young prostitute. The two have an instant, mystical connection: She reads his thoughts, and they converse in riddles and images. The book is characterized by an extravagant, impractical gorgeousness. Characters speak in weird, sententious epigrams; every gesture is charged with significance. The plot is contrived to the point of amiable silliness. As in a B movie, Laila can’t quit her job as a prostitute without forfeiting her life. But she can no longer bear to sell her body after feeling the hands of a man she loves, so she resolves to murder her pimp. The hero gallantly resolves to bump him off on her behalf without her knowledge, but a minor character winds up doing it instead as a gesture of thanks for the hero’s kindness.
Delicious, frivolous and occasionally ludicrous.