Kamchatka is a wonderful novel. It is set in Argentina in 1976, the year of the military coup and the start of the ‘dirty war’ in which thousands of politically progressive people were rounded up and ‘disappeared’. The novel is told mostly from the point of view of the ten year old son of a lawyer and a scientist who are on the run from the coup government. He and his five year old brother (“The Midget”) are bundled up and taken to a disused country house, a safe house, to avoid the military police. The father’s law partner has already been arrested, and the mother has been fired from her job as a professor.

With this setting you might think that this would be a grim and unappealing story. But in fact it is often very funny. Life goes on for the narrator. He knows that there is great danger, but he is, after all, ten years old and has priorities other than political repression. He is obsessed with Houdini, the escape artist, and with Superman, and the game of Risk. He is amazingly tolerant of the depredations of his little brother who has a talent for destruction. He misses his best friend from school and wishes that his mother would learn to cook.

I said that the novel is mostly told from his perspective, but some of the small chapters are written as the narrator years later, reflecting back on that time - small, brilliant essays about the nature of time, the role of biology, geography, and astronomy as ways of understanding the world. And a couple chapters are written from the perspective of an omniscient narrator, giving us a different perspective on the events of the story and on Argentina at that time, and on the nature of the fight for justice.

This is one of the best novels I have read in a long time. I can’t recommend it enough.



Book cover

Metadata Info

  • Title: Kamchatka
  • Author: Marcelo Figueras
  • Published: 2003
  • ISBN: 8466313397
  • Buy: Amazon search
  • Check out: Seattle library
  • Rating: 5.0 stars