Book Review – Le Mensonge d’Alejandro (French Edition) by Bob van Laerhoven

“Terreno, Amérique du Sud, 1983. Après dix années de dictature, la junte du général Pelarón semble vaciller. Alejandro Maldiga, guitariste du poète et chanteur populaire Victor Pérez, exécuté par le régime, quitte la sinistre prison baptisée « La Cène ». La résistance cherche de nouveau à attirer Maldiga dans ses rangs, mais Alejandro a changé. Dévoré par la culpabilité – il se sent responsable de la mort de son ami Pérez –, Maldiga devient involontairement le centre d’un réseau d’intrigues dramatiques qui mèneront à une catastrophique rébellion populaire. Roman d’amour, thriller, analyse des mécanismes de la dictature, Le Mensonge d’Alejandro brasse tous ces thèmes. Le Terreno symbolise les régimes dictatoriaux d’Amérique latine dans les années 1970 et leurs méthodes de répression qui ont, hélas, toujours cours”.

My Review

A book has to be seriously good to make it worth my while to dust off my finishing school French just to read it!  Fortunately this one was. 

The book is set in a fictional South American country where a mostly corrupt church and more corrupt state jostle with each other to keep a lid on the potential revolutions that seethe beneath the surface of the local slums.  A country with a dark history of repression torture murder. 

Alejandro is a pop musician and songwriter who was once caught up in a band with serious revolutionary ambitions and as a result he found himself thrown into prison where he served ten gruelling years although to his chagrin he was never the leader or most celebrated of the group.  Now released he has gained a celebrity status amongst the revolutionary fraternity.   It’s a status he doesn’t really want and can’t live up to.  He isn’t a hero.  He is pitifully flawed and I found him to be vain cowardly and cynical.  And the title of the novel Alejandro’s Lie speaks to the deep fault line in his personal history that vitiates and ultimately poisons the revolutionary camaraderie into which he finds himself sucked.  He has shameful painful unspeakable secrets. 

The story is poetically told and even with my faltering French I felt this and I was taken on a journey that is part adventure part romance part psychological investigation.  At times it also feels like a history of a real time and a real country.  It is unflinching in its honesty about the human psyche.

Only after I finished this book did I discover that it is already a translation and the original was in Flemish.  It is certainly a book that deserves to be translated into English.

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