“Time doesn’t go by for nothing”
The Painter of Battles ~ Arturo Perez-Reverte
So my classmates and I decided to arrange for a book exchange over Christmas, a secret Santa of sorts. We each selected one of our favourite books and put it in a bag. This bag was then passed around in class and after the holidays we are to guess who the book we picked out of the bag was from. The Painter of Battles is the book I got and as easy as it is to distract me from my long personal reading list – I didn’t wait for Christmas to finish reading it.
A war photographer has retired to an isolated island off Costa Brava, where he spends his days painting a large mural on the insides of the walls of an old deserted watch tower. The painting is a summation of his experiences, his beliefs, his view of the world and war and art. He has lost the woman he loved and he is no longer a passive artist on battlefields, capturing a moment. Until, a man he had photographed in the past arrives on the island – to kill him.
The plot is fantastic, the writing and the sentiment are both moving. Although I can only imagine how much of it is lost in translation, but it is beautiful and atmospheric nonetheless. However, in my opinion it went on for very long. I have nothing against a mega-prose style of writing, but unfortunately it just didn’t suit the lack of action or suspense that ideally a book should possess if they want to keep the reader interested.
Not to mention, Olvido – the protagonist’s lover who died and who is introduced to us only through his memories of her. Picture a hard-to-get movie star, a beautiful and intensely artistic woman; a woman who spews intellectual thoughts while walking down a piazza completely oblivious to the fact that she is breaking the hearts of all the men who gaze upon her. This woman makes love passionately, follows our hero faithfully wherever he goes, her only flaw is perhaps that she is so perfect – yeah basically she was insufferable throughout the book.
Reader engrossed in the dialogue between the painter and the man from his past, as they discuss moral philosophy.
Olvido makes an entrance in the form of a memory, says something enchanting like
“Every good painting has always aspired to be a landscape of another landscape not yet painted, but when the truth of a society coincided with that of the artist, there was no duplicity”
Reader: &*%K off the page Olvido
Why you should read it:
- Some very interesting discussions on war, morality, society
- Graphic accounts and visuals of war crimes (the author was a war photographer himself)
Why you shouldn’t read it:
- It is the poster-child of modern mega prose
- An unrealistic love story