Thursday, 30 May 2013

Translation Challenge: If I Close My Eyes Now

If I Close My Eyes Now
Edney Silvestre
Translated from the Brazilian Portuguese by Nick Caistor

Well this was an interesting one. I went into it expecting a murder mystery told through the perspective of two kids and came out of it suddenly knowing a lot more about the political system (and corruption level) in Brazil. This is one of those novels that subtly teaches you something whilst still maintaining a fast-paced and intriguing plot. Basically, it's a winner.

Eduardo and Paulo are skipping school for the afternoon when they (literally) stumble across the murdered body of a young woman. It is a gruesome discovery and one which they cannot forget. Thinking the police have arrested the wrong man for the murder, the boys start their own search for the killer with the help of an old former communist from a nursing home. Their quest throws them in to the adult world of villainy, sexual violence, corruption and lies with disastrous consequences.

As much as it is a murder mystery, the focus is Brazil's political landscape and the corruption within the political system. I don't know much about Brazil so it was really quite interesting learning about the history of the country. One thing I was most surprised by is the racism in Brazilian society. I would not have pegged Brazil as a country that was rife with racism but apparently in the sixties (when the book is set) it was a common issue. I did find some sections quite unsettling. There is a lot of sexual violence in the novel and, whilst I am not adverse to that in a novel, I found it difficult to swallow at times considering the two main characters are young boys.

Silvestre is quite the master storyteller. He weaves an intricate plot full of twists and deception without losing the impact of the language (which is really quite beautiful). The language itself is deceptively simple. It is not a book to nod off to as you read particularly during the extended sections of dialogue which rarely note who is saying what are and so fast paced you could lose yourself. But it's a murder mystery and this pacing is perfect.

It is a murder mystery, and an excellent one at that. But it is definitely the thinking man's mystery. It has got one of the most poignant endings I have read for a long while, one of those that winds you for a moment. I finished it a couple of weeks ago now but it has stayed with me. I think that just goes to show the power of the story. It also has an excellent epigraph...

'The dead don't stay where they're buried.' John Berger

Copy received from the published via Netgalley. Thanks guys!


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