REVIEW by Willard Manus
why do you send so much death our way?
Why do you look on as we kill one another?
This excerpt from an Andean folk song pretty much sums up the essence
of BLOOD OF THE DAWN, the powerful debut novel of the Peruvian writer
Claudia Salazar Jimenez (Deep Vellum Publishing, deftly translated by
Jimenez, who is also the founder and director of Perufest, the first Peruvian
film festival in NYC, digs deep into Perus recent violent history:
the decades-long battle between the Shining Path guerrillas and the countrys
The author looks at the conflict through a wide lens, using a multitude
of mostly female voices to tell her story. One of the key characters is
Marcela, a teacher and a mother who, for fiercely idealistic reasons,
gives up everything to join the guerrillas. Another is Melanie, a photo/journalist
whose assignment to cover the armed struggle has unforseen, horrific results.
The third is Modesta, a farm woman caught up against her will in the savage
battle between right and left.
other characters are The President, a General, and a Shining Path leader
who is forever quoting Mao (power comes out of the barrel of a gun).
Jimenez skillfully orchestrates all of these voices, weaving them together
to create a brutally honest portrait of a country being ripped apart by
destructive class war. Both left and right have their reasons to do battle,
but in the end neither side is worthy of our admiration or respect. As
the novel shows so convincingly, they are both tainted by evil, all too
willing to demonize, rob, rape and murder each other.
Mans inhumanity to man screams out from these pages, with the only
saving grace being the courage and compassion Modesta shows in her battle
against the forces of darkness.