Of political terror and its consequences in the Basque country of northern Spain.
Readers of a certain age may remember that, a generation or two ago, Basque nationalists were busy setting bombs in Spanish venues in an effort to gain independence. It didn’t work. Readers of any age will want to have at least some grounding in the history of the paramilitary group ETA and post-Franco Spain to appreciate the nuances of Basque author Cano’s sometimes-labored, sometimes-lumbering tale, which centers on a compatriot who, having given up two separatist friends to the Guardia Civil, now spends the next few hundred pages pondering what he’s done and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Diego Lazkano isn’t necessarily a bad guy, but in the dirty war of political oppression and assassination in which he’s implicated, everything in his life hinges on his betrayal: He wants to talk of art and philosophy, to be in love, but the world spins away from him as the reckoning draws nearer. “The dead; they are many and always grateful for a bit of entertainment,” he avers, having added to their number. His lover, Gloria, the daughter of an ardent, murderous fascist, meanwhile retreats from politics into art while nursing a deep well of anger, though her theatrical inquiry into whether torture can be “sublimated through art” speaks directly to Diego's crime. In the end, Cano’s book is a meditation on secrets and historical truth, no small issue in a Spain that is still dealing with the Civil War of the 1930s. That truth will out, as a Guardia Civil officer relates, only when the perpetrators speak up: “They say that truth always ends up coming out, and that, generally, it does so…not because of the arduous research of the person who’s been digging after it, but because the person in possession of the secret no longer wants to be its keeper.”
Camus meets Hamlet: a slow but meaningful examination of guilt and expiation.