Chilean novelist Roberto Ampuero’s thirteen books have been translated into German, French, Italian, Chinese, Swedish, Portuguese, Greek and Croatian and the Spanish-speaking world has awarded him several literary prizes. But only now are English-speaking readers getting a chance to read his work. This month Riverhead Books, a division of the Penguin group, has published The Neruda Case, one of Ampuero’s six detective novels featuring Chilean sleuth Cayetano Brulé.
The Neruda Case opens in present day Valparaiso, with vivid descriptions of the port city’s “fifty teeming, anarchic hills” and its inhabitants who “risked their lives on shabby postwar trolleys and a handful of whining cable cars each time they rode to work or to homes with crumbling balconies and gardens that settled gracefully on peaks or clung precariously to hillsides.” Cayetano Brulé watches the city, remembering his work as a much younger man, and a photograph of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda sends his mind back to 1973, before the military coup that ousted Socialist president Salvador Allende. The poet, gravely ill with cancer, summons Brulé and asks him to track down an old acquaintance last seen in Mexico.
Here’s an essay by Ampuero’s translator Carolina De Robertis in Publishers Weekly: