Morder el Silencio
Arturo von Vacano
Report on Morder el Silencio

Center for Inter-American Relations - NYC
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Tit1e of Book: Morder el Silencio

Author: Arturo Von Vacano        Nationality: Bolivian
Published by:  Instituto Boliviano de Cultura          Date 1980   No. of pages:  265

Please use the following format in evaluating the above book. Feel free to elaborate in any way you think
appropriate or to include other information. Please try to be as specific as possible.

1) Brief summary of plot if a novel or collection or short stories; indications of themes and topics if poetry.
It is somewhat difficult to summarize the plot of Morder el Silencio; the book moves back and forth in time, and
back arid forth as well between narration, meditation and dialogue with a variety of interlocutors, some of whom
exist only to argue with the narrator. The novel is written as autobiography, or personal memoir and reflection, and
the author is very successful in blurring the distinctions between fictional and historical elements. In some respects
it is similar to the journalistic fiction (or fictionalized journalism) of writers like Mailer and Capote. Morally it
owes a great deal to Solzhenitsyn.

The book focuses on important internal and external experience and themes, including a brief period in prison for
political reasons, the story of the narrator’s courtship marriage and fatherhood, his travels through the United
States and especially his visit with an idolized American author (Hemingway, I think), devastating analyses of his
own character, of life in a repressive society, and of the ways in which people must come to terms with the
conflict between their own decency, intelligence and ambitions and the inhuman and inhumane nature of life in
countries which are both "underdeveloped" and totalitarian. Von Vacano generalizes the experience so that Morder
el Silencio can be thought of as the description of a gulag that is both worldwide and peculiarly Latin American.

2) Description of form or formal elements if they deserve special comment.
As I indicated in #1 Morder el Silencio maintains first person narration throughout, but the novelistic technique
alternates between description, narration, reflection, dialogue that is not part the narrative sections, and evocations
of The Beast, Von Vacano symbolic shorthand or the mindless, life—negating destructiveness that finds its
ultimate expression in those who carry out the policies of repressive governments.

3) Critical evaluation. If possible make specific comparisons or contrasts with other Latin American
works that have been translated into English or books written in English.
I think that Morder el Silencio is a fine book. It is an indignant and very moving condemnation of injustice and
dictatorship in Latin America (and, by extension, the rest of the world) and, at the same time, an equally moving
affirmation of the loyalties and sensibilities that can be maintained even under the regime of The Beast. In the best
sense of the word the novel is relevant; it deals with terror sanctioned by law, the impulses of conscience (those
acted upon and those ignored), responsibility and engagement——the inescapable social and personal facts of
being alive in the 20th century. In its profound observations of political and individual corruption it can be
compared to Conversation in the Cathedral –- in its stormy ethical statement, to the works of to Solzhenitsyn. In
its somber blend blending of history and imagination to Pedro Páramo. Von Vacano mentions For Whom the Bell
Tolls many times and that book may be the ultimate source of his vision: people trapped in historical
circumstance, partisanship that absolutely convinces the reader of its fairness and balance, a very deep sense of the
difference between viciousness and virtue and, hanging over all, the human doom that can only be changed by the
kind of absurd, radical and non—revolutionary posture that makes for martyrs or conservatives who have gone
beyond loyalty to either capitalism or communism.

The novel is strong and compelling. I hope it will be widely known and discussed, for it is an important statement
about a social and existentially determined tragic sense of life (Von Vacano repeatedly uses the term coined by
Unamuno; according to the author Morder el Silencio is a ‘nivola" rather than a "novela.") It deserves translation
into many languages.

4) Suitability of book for translation into English. Special difficulties
such as regional language.
The book should be translated into English soon. The language is straightforward—fairly colloquial, with
references to contemporary political life (e.g. acronyms for gov’t. agencies).

5) Literary prizes won by author.
The author refers to a prize literary in the novel, but I’m not certain if he actually won it or not.

6) Translations of this work into other languages.
I don’t know.

7) Significant excerpts from reviews elsewhere: Journals, newspapers, etc.
I don’t know of any.

8) Qualifications of critic preparing this report. (Please be sure not to sign the report.)
Ph.D. in Spanish and Latin American literature; teacher and translator of contemporary Latin American literature.

9)        300 Word abstract of Sections 1—8.
Morder el Silencio deserves the immediate attention of American publishers and the American reading public; It is
well—written, politically and philosophically significant, serious and deeply felt, and not at all sermonizing. It has
the immediacy of a book written by someone who is in the midst of living through what he writes about, and the
universality of one composed by a man who has come to understand that what allows human beings to terrorize,
brutalize. and deceive other human beings is never a purely local phenomenon.
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