Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Juan de Recacoechea's Bolivian noir

An interesting afterword follows Juan de Recacoechea's American Visa, about which I posted a comment last week. The writer and teacher Ilan Stavans, one of whose students translated American Visa from Spanish into English, calls Recacoechea's style "picaresque noir." I won't be giving away too much if I say both terms of the description fit. The novel is a kind of travelogue, its protagonist's observations on La Paz in the 1990s perhaps reflecting the author's own impressions after he returned to Bolivia from two decades working in Europe.

Stavans calls American crime fiction Recacoechea's "prime stimulation," and he notes the author's references to Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, and movies based on their work. The novel is also akin in temperament to David Goodis' work in a way that might surprise some readers familiar only by reputation with that prototypical noir writer.

I'm less certain of Stavans' assertion that the Mexican crime novelist Paco Ignacio Taibo II is probably Recacoechea's main regional model. Yes, both authors take harsh looks at large Latin American cities (Taibo's Hector Belascoaran Shayne is a private investigator in Mexico City.) Both offer stark depictions of societies that crush their poor, their dispossessed, and even their ordinary workers. Yet, unlike Taibo, Recacoechea and his first-person protagonist, Mario Alvarez, never speechify. And that made Recacoechea a bit easier to read for this son of the bourgeoisie.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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7 Comments:

Blogger sauron said...

I hope in an italian translation..
s

March 07, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Either that, or you'll have to learn Spanish or read it in English. You could write to the publisher and ask about translations (and let them know you read about American Visa here!)

The publisher of the English translation is Akashic Books. Here is the Web site: http://www.akashicbooks.com/ .

March 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So long time I haven't visit you.
I'm interest by this author. I try to find a french version ...
Have a good day...
Evanthia

March 08, 2007  
Blogger sauron said...

Thanks Peter
s

March 08, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

You're welcome, Sauron, and I'll give another publisher's name that you might be interested in. Evanthia, welcome back from your vacation. I can give you the same advice I gave Sauron, who hopes for an Italian translation: Write to the publisher.

I posted the Web site of the American translation's publisher above. Here is the publisher of the original 1994 Bolivian edition:

Libreria-Editorial Amigos del Libro,
Cochabamba-La Paz, Bolivia

March 08, 2007  
Blogger Harvee Lau said...

I've read his mystery novel Andean Expressbut not this one, American Visa. Will have to try to find it.

July 29, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the note. Both books make refreshing additions to my crime reading, and not just because of the settings. They're just not like most crime novels these days. They're more akin to American noir of the 194os or 1950s, I'd say.

July 29, 2012  

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