THE ASSIGNMENT by Peter Wahloo


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The Assignment is a political adventure story originally written in Swedish. The leading character is a diplomat stationed at the Stockholm embassy of a nameless South American ""Republic."" After the assassination of the governor of the Republic's most impoverished and politically inflammable province, Manual Ortega is appointed as his replacement. Neither by experience nor by temperament is Ortega suited for the job though in retrospect, from the government's point of view, it seems to their advantage that he be as ignorant as possible. Ortega's given reason for accepting the appointment seems less credible. The fact that it appears to him as a ""challenge"" proves to be such an extreme understatement as to be laughable. His task is to arrange a negotiation conference between the right wing of the province, called the Citizens' Guard, and the people's Liberation Front, without being killed himself. He succeeds in completing all the arrangements only to have the present ""liberal"" government resign leaving the country and Ortega's province in the hands of the military right wing. The arranged ""conference"" turns out to be a trap designed to annihilate the Liberation Front and Ortega's role is that of silent accomplice in their murder. The Assignment has a definite grim fascination chiefly owing to the fact that from the time the story opens, its protagonist is a marked man and the author gets maximum mileage out of the built-in tension of this situation. It seems to be asking a lot of the reader's credulity, however, to propose that the supposedly politically savvy leaders of the Liberation Front would deliver themselves into the hands of the well-meaning but obviously amateurish Ortega.

Publisher: Knopf