The Name of a Bullfighter by Luis Sepúlveda, translated by Suzanne Ruta
Harcourt Brace, 1996, originally published as Nombre de torero, 1994
Source: library copy
So reading and blogging-wise, I’m still on a Latin American crime novel kick. It’s due in part to a batch of Latin American novels arriving by interlibrary loan recently, but I also chose to read The Name of a Bullfighter specifically because (honestly) it’s short. Despite my less than stellar motives for seeking out this book, I’m happy I read it.
The Name of the Bullfighter is the story of two men racing to recover gold coins stolen from the German government and hidden in Chile for fifty years. It’s a very spare, bleak story that follows first Juan Belmonte, the man who shares the name of a bullfighter, who was a Marxist guerilla throughout Latin America before settling in exile in Hamburg, Germany, and second Frank Galinsky, a former Stasi intelligence officer. The plot is not the most important part of the story: the chase for the gold is mainly a device for Sepúlveda to talk about guerilla movements throughout Latin America (See the note at the bottom of this post to read more about Sepúlveda’s own life) and his disillusionment with the left. I don’t think you need an extensive knowledge of Latin American political history before reading this story because Sepúlveda provides plenty of background.
Belmonte is the most-developed character in this story: his story of exile and returning to Chile was the heart of the book. The book as a whole was quite short, and the plot was fairly brisk: I didn’t feel like I needed to get close to the other characters. The book is bleaker than what I usually read, but it was an interesting take on Latin American history.
I encourage you to read a brief biography of Luis Sepúlveda.
Another review appears in Two Weeks Notice.