Friday, January 04, 2008

Arturo Pérez-Reverte: The Painter of Battles

Barrie Swift reviews Arturo Pérez-Reverte's The Painter of Battles.
Andres Faulques has spent his life photographing wars. Now retired to an 18th century coastal watchtower, he is painting a giant mural on its walls to capture what his photographs couldn't the meaning of war.

A stranger arrives one day and tells Faulques he is going to kill him. The stranger is in fact the subject of one of Faulques' prize-winning war pictures and wants Faulques to explain his motivations. As the painting progresses, the back stories of photographer and subject are revealed together with interesting references to famous paintings. It is a story of art, love, actions and consequences in the form of a psychological thriller and as such, builds to a satisfying climax. Perez-Reverte is a best-selling author in his native Spain: previously a war correspondent, his experiences show through in the gritty realism of the war scenes he portrays. With translated works it's not possible to gauge the quality of the author's prose, but Peden's translation reveals memorable passages.

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