Thursday, 13 April 2017

Holy City: book review

What have I been reading recently?  An Argentinian novel actually.  I picked up Holy Land by Guillermo Orsi because, set in Buenos Aires, it seemed as if it was going to be a noirish, hard-bitten detective novel.  The start of an Argentine equivalent of Scandi-noir perhaps.  Argie-noir?  It turned out to be more than a detective novel though.  It is a political and social critique of Argentine society, wallowing in corruption at every level from criminal drug cartels through police who are not averse to kidnapping wealthy tourists, and ordinary citizens fighting for survival every way they know how.  Even the one honest cop – Walter Carroza – is not averse to handing out summary justice.
At first I revelled in this brilliant account of a once rich country reduced to penury and chaos by corrupt politicians.  But gradually I began to sink in the mire of greed, and lost track of who might be honest and who not.  You might say that this was the purpose of Orsi’s writing, and I agree to a point.  But the chaotic jumps from backstories to the present left me uncertain as to what point in time I was at.  And soon everything simply became confusing and somewhat irritating.  I ploughed through to the end and yet I remain uncertain whether this novel is brilliant or merely pretentious.  I leave it to you to decide where you stand.
Just one more point.  Perhaps the parallel universe concept carried through to the real world, because the book is promoted as being the winner of the Dashiell Hammett Prize in 2010.  I have looked at all the Hammett Award listings online and cannot find Orsi or Holy City mentioned.  Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Holy City by Guillermo Orsi, Quercus, 2012