Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Arturo Pérez-Reverte's Captain Alatriste

I have to give a quick shout out to Arturo Pérez-Reverte, even though his books focus on Spain and not Latin America.  To like these books, you must enjoy good writing, with a rich social class texture of Madrid under the reign of Philip IV (they take place in the 1620s) but also a male-oriented swashbuckling theme with sometimes thin plots (fyi, he does also write contemporary mysteries that take place in Spain).  I just read Captain Alatriste, which is actually the third I've read, but perhaps the best of the three.

Aside from just fun reading, what I always enjoy about the books is their richly detailed examination of the severe decline of the Spanish Empire, political, economically, and culturally, with a view from the bottom run of society.  Pérez-Reverte is absolutely unsparing:

Aragonese and Catalans were shielded by their laws; Portugal was patched together; commerce was in the hands of foreigners; finances were the purview of Genoese bankers; and no one worked except the wretched, exploited by the tax collectors of the aristocracy and the king.  And in the midst of this all that corruption and madness, moving against the course of history, like a beautiful, terrifying animal that still slashed and clawed yet at the heart was eaten by a malignant tumor, our poor Spain was worm-eaten inside, condemned to an inexorable decadence that did not escape the clear eyes of don Francisco de Quevedo (p. 60).

You see a Spain in full-fledged political and economic decline.  The court is corrupt, the priests of the Inquisition have seemingly unlimited power, and industry is disparaged, yet even the mercenaries view themselves in nationalist terms.


theCardinal 10:32 PM  

In case you have not seen it the movie by the same name, is a guilty pleasure. Viggo Mortensen's Argentine accent is quite the distraction but otherwise fun.

Greg Weeks 11:14 PM  

After reading it, I saw reference to the movie, so I may have to check it out.

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