It is always a special joy to discover a treasure heretofore unknown. Such a new found treasure is the writing of Arturo Perez-Reverte. His new novel, just being released in bookstores and on Amazon.com this week, is “The Painter of Battles.” This is writing worthy of a Nobel Prize! In this carefully crafted novel, Perez-Reverte paints a picture of a dance of death between Faulques - a painter and a retired war photographer – and Ivo Markovic - a former soldier whose life was changed forever by a photograph that Faulques had taken of him in Vukovar, Yugoslavia.
Before he dies, Faulques wants to finish painting his concept of war as a mural. He has taken over an abandoned tower as the site for the mural. Markovic arrives at the tower and announces that he plans to kill Faulques, but that they have many things to discuss before he does the deed. The action of the book centers on their verbal and philosophical duel.
Perez-Reverte is himself a former war photographer, and he has much to say about war and about art. This is a story that will captivate a wide audience. Anyone interested in photography, painting, composition, philosophy, the history of war and interpersonal relationships will find something of value in this story. Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden, the writing itself is a work of art. The author uses a rich palette of images and phrases to tell this gripping story. He lays out for the reader the geometry and the gore of battle; he sketches the calculus of conflict. In the midst of telling a troubling tale of suffering, death and love in the time of conflict, he examines the ethics of what it means to be an artist who is a participant-observer in mayhem.
This is rich, troubling and evocative writing that is worthy of a broad readership. Having sampled the writing of Perez-Reverte, I plan to go back and visit the full gallery of his previous works of art.