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Manuel Vázquez Montalban: Galíndez (1990)

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This book had been on my reading list forever, but for some reason it was impossible to get my hands on it. Until, finally, my parents in law managed to unearth a second hand copy. You can imagine I was rather expectant.

I must say, I was a little disappointed. Galíndez is based on a real event, the murder of Basque politician Jesús de Galíndez by the Dominican Republic’s dictator Trujillo in the 1950s. He’d written a doctoral thesis on the Trujillo regime that didn’t go down to well with “El Benefactor”. Galíndez lived in New York at the time as the Basque exile government’s representative at the United Nations, where he was kidnapped off the street and shipped to the Dominican Republic where he was tortured and eventually killed. It’s a rather complex story that somewhat spiralled out of the control of the Trujillo regime and entailed the killing of several other people. You can read the rest on Wikipedia here.

That’s just the background though, although Vázquez Montalbán goes into quite a lot of detail on the torture scenes. It’s like you’re living in Galíndez’s head, the narrator addressing Galíndez as “you”. I found it strange and a little over the top as a stylistic device. That just as a side note, because the real protagonist is Muriel Colbert, another PhD student who has somehow become obsessed with the Galíndez case and is trying to find out what really happened. It’s a strange PhD project, I have to say. Muriel spends a lot of time tracing Galíndez and unearthing all sorts of information on the man, and she becomes very emotionally involved in the case, but in a strangely detached way. I can’t quite put my finger on what I find so weird about her relationship with her subject of study. It’s like she falls in love with him post-mortem, but at the same time she remains oddly analytical about it. Needless to say, there are some people who don’t want her to find out too much, and she is quick to get the US secret service on her heels. I didn’t find this very believable. Muriel seems a bit too ditzy to be a danger to anyone, to be honest.

Then there are a lot of side characters that each get their own story thread but are never fully developed. There’s a fat agent who gets put on the case and reactivates Voltaire, an old agent who’s living in Miami with lots of cats and who can’t resist doing a job for the agency every now and then. The way the different narratives are strung together is most confusing and the characters just didn’t come to life for me.

Even though this was supposed to be a thriller, for me there was never any suspense. There was no feeling of Muriel being “hunted” by the agents. Everything just sort of happened somehow. I really wanted to like this book. As it was, it took me ages to read and the best thing I can say about it was that it didn’t completely turn me off and I finished it eventually.

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Author: bettinathenomad

Nomadic fan of books, food, the outdoors, and water. International Relations geek. Chlorine is my perfume.

7 thoughts on “Manuel Vázquez Montalban: Galíndez (1990)

  1. Thanks, I’ve had this author on my list for a while and haven’t yet bought and read any titles. Have you read any Andrea Camilleri? Love his detective books and his main character

    • I’ve read one of Montalbáns crime novels a long time ago and I don’t really remember it very well. It was also in my early days of learning Spanish so maybe the language difficulties had something to do with that.
      Regarding Camilleri, I’ve read a few of his detective novels and quite enjoyed them. It’s been a while since my last one though, maybe it’s time to pick up another one.

  2. The reason I asked is because I am a fan of Camilleri and I was curious if the books of Montalban are along the same lines. Some of Montalban’s titles are being reprinted by Melville House Publishing.

    • I see – to be honest I’m not that sure. I know he has a detective series centred on Pepe Carvalho and the novel I read years ago was one of them – but as I said I don’t remember it well enough so I wouldn’t be able to say how similar it is to Camilleri.
      Galíndez isn’t part of the series so its dynamic is quite different.

  3. Now that so many books are available with one click online, it’s actually nice to have a book that’s hard to find, and to rely on the serendipity of parents-in-law coming across it in a second-hand store. It does sound promising, too, but sorry that it didn’t live up to expectations.

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