The Neruda Case – Chile, Mexico, Cuba, Germany, Bolivia – Roberto Ampuero

neruda case

Why a booktrail ?

A mystery set against the backdrop of the Chilean 1973 coup which paints an interesting portrait of the  poet Pablo Neruda

Story in a nutshell

Cayetano Brulé, is Cuban but lives in Valparaiso, Chile. At a dinner party one evening he comes across the poet Pablo Neruda who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, just two years previously. As they talk, Neruda provides him with a challenge – to find a man he has not seen for many many years.

He hands him a pile of Simenon’s Maigret detective novels and tells him that these will help give him all the detective skills he needs. The only important thing is that he finds this man – Neruda is dying of cancer and this is his final wish.

Cayetano finds that this mission takes him away from Chile, to Mexico, Cuba, East Germany, and Bolivia, where he meets a wide range of people and situations. On the trail for one man – Dr. Angel Bracamonte, a researcher on the medicinal properties of native plants, but Neruda does not want to find Bracamonte for his medical skills.  There are more personal reasons at stake.

Place and setting

The booktrail features the locations within Valparaiso as these are the most closely connected to Neruda and provide a fascinating view of where he spent time. La Sebastiana - http://www.fundacionneruda.org/es/la-sebastiana/informacion-visita Calle Ricardo de Ferrari 692 Neruda’s house in the city The Mauri Theatre Where he sees Alfred Hitchcok’s The Birds at a Sunday Matinee befire diving into the din of the city outside San juan de Dios hill Where Cayetano Brule has an appartment la Moneda  - http://www.gob.cl/en/guided-tours/ Salvador Allende and the political events occur from this political centre Plaza Anibal Pinto where cayetano goes to the cafe del poeta Alemania avenue where Cayetano visits the Al Baba cafe and sees the Mauri theatre
The booktrail features the locations within Valparaiso as these are the most closely connected to Neruda and provide a fascinating view of where he spent time.
La Sebastianahttp://www.fundacionneruda.org/es/la-sebastiana/informacion-visita
Calle Ricardo de Ferrari 692
Neruda’s house in the city
The Mauri Theatre
Where he sees Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds at a Sunday Matinee before diving into the din of the city outside
San juan de Dios hill
Where Cayetano Brule has an appartment
(Santiago) – la Moneda presidential Palacehttp://www.gob.cl/en/guided-tours/
Salvador Allende and the political events occur from this political centre
Plaza Anibal Pinto
Where Cayetano goes to the cafe del poeta
Alemania avenue
where Cayetano visits the Al Baba cafe

Valparaiso Chile – the home of Pablo Neruda and a key location for watching events of Chilean history unfold. From the days following the opening of the Panama Canal to the coup of Salvador Allende, this novel is a tale of one poet, Chile’s most well known and his search for secrets, during his final days in his beloved homeland.

The backdrop of the history and landscape of Chile run parallel to the story and form a large and informed picture of a country in turmoil.

In the 1970s, Cayetano, his wife, and Neruda watch the consequences of the political landscape play out right in front of their eyes –

The attempted coup came live and direct over the radio, like in the American movies, turning the country into a passive spectator

The media buzz and the fear and excitement of the people show a country on the edge where tension is the order of the day. This is a country going through some troubling times.

With each section of the book named after one of Neruda’s women, each takes the story further and explains a side to the man not seen in the western world. Pablo Neruda has three houses, the most famous of which is La Sebastiana and his poetry dots the literary landscape here giving a unique view of the man sitting in the armchair he names La Nube. A man who loves women as much as words and whose life was filled with both grandeur and meanness.

The trail from Chile to Mexico, Cuba, East Germany, and Bolivia, is one of danger , Chilean history and expat frustration. Revolution is coming and Chile is a country which will feel the full force of this drastic change. With such a thrilling backdrop, the story of Neruda and his mystery search shows a side to Chile never seen before and a poet and his life which takes centre stage.

Bookish musings

If you are interested in the poet Neruda and want to learn a little about Chilean history, this is a fine way to do it. A slow plot in parts and one which develops over the whole book but what this leaves you with is a full and immersive impression of Chile, its history, and its people.

I knew a little of Neruda having studied him for A level Spanish  and then again at university but never had I seen him like this before. Some of it fictional yes, but this still gives an interesting view of him in his own surroundings.

To me this took centre stage and the story took a back seat but this didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the book. A potted cultural, poetic and political study of Chile for despite the many locations, Chile takes centre stage, but when the history is this fascinating, this is no bad thing.

A very interesting and immersive read

Roberto Ampuero is speaking at the Taylor Institute in Oxford @TAYOxford  on May 28th and appearing at the Hay Festival on May 30th. You can follow him on twitter –@robertoampuero

http://londres.cervantes.es/en/default.shtm

https://www.hayfestival.com/p-9869-will-smith-and-roberto-ampuero.aspx

 
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