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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Plenilunio (Full Moon)

After reading just two of his books, Ventanas de Manhattan and Plenilunio, I would have to say that Antonio Muñoz Molina is my favorite contemporary Spanish author. Plenilunio is ostensibly a police novel that deals with the case of a murdered child. I don't read books of this genre as a general rule but this novel really stands well above the usual pulp stuff. I would read more crime novels if they were more like this one. He is every bit as skillful as John Le Carré. I think what I dislike so much about the whole serial killer genre is that most of the time they make the killer out to be some sort of evil genius, like a James Bond villain. Muñoz Molina has a villain who is just a creepy loser like they are in real life. There often is a certain banality in evil and it is never glamorous.

Plenilunio is a police novel without the detective using his gun or fists to do his job. In one section when he is interrogating the suspect he doesn't even raise his voice to the level of shouting and his most aggressive act towards the criminal is abandoning the formal usted for the familiar form. Muñoz Molina also doesn't pander to readers looking for revenge. I can probably count on one hand how many books and films about criminals end with the guy actually getting arrested and the due process of the law doing what we put it there to do. We always seem to want to inflict our own idea of justice which means shooting the bad guy or throwing him off a bridge. It's not that easy as he explains in this brief but telling passage:

No había un modo de reparar el ultraje, de hacer verdadera justicia,de borrar siquiera una parte del sentimiento provocado. Sentir orgullo, envanercerse del éxito, le hubiera parecido no sólo una obscenidad, sino también una falta de respeto hacia las víctimas.

There was no way to make amends for the outrage, to have real justice, to erase even a part of the hurt. To feel pride (the detective for catching the criminal), to feel vanity for his success, to him would have seemed like not only an obscenity, but also a lack of respect for the victims

What I love most about this novel is his incredible eye and attention for detail. I noticed the author's acute vision when I read Ventanas de Manhattan which is one of the mot insightful travel narratives that I have ever read. The story of Plenilunio takes place in a fictitious small town in Spain but I would love to see the actual place the author had in mind when he wrote the book. He describes everything in such incredible detail that we can almost see for ourselves exactly what the author sees. His characterizations are equally as well detailed, if not more so.

I watched the movie adaptation of the book right after finishing the novel. It was fairly faithful to the book although they tried to make more of the killer than the author intended. I suppose that movie goers would feel cheated if they weren't given a criminal to really hate. In the book he was just a nondescript loser.

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