Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Fragility of Bodies by Sergio Olguin. It’s urban crime with a flair of literary fiction.
Sergio Olguín was born in Buenos Aires in 1967 and was a journalist before turning to fiction. Olguín has won a number of awards, among others the Premio Tusquets 2009 for his novel Oscura monótona sangre (“Dark Monotonous Blood“) His books have been translated into German, French and Italian. The Fragility of Bodies is his first novel to be translated into English.
The translator Miranda France is the author of two acclaimed volumes of travel writing: Don Quixote’s Delusions and Bad Times in Buenos Aires. She has also written the novels Hill Farm and The Day Before the Fire and translated much Latin American fiction, including Claudia Piñeiro’s novels for Bitter Lemon Press.
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About the book
When she hears about the suicide of a local train driver who has jumped off the roof of a block of flats, leaving a suicide note confessing to four mortal ‘accidents’ on the train tracks, she decides to investigate. For the police the case is closed (suicide is suicide), for Veronica it is the beginning of a journey that takes her into an unfamiliar world of grinding poverty, junkie infested neighborhoods, and train drivers on commuter lines haunted by the memory of bodies hit at speed by their locomotives in the middle of the night.
Aided by a train driver informant, a junkie in rehab and two street kids willing to risk everything for a can of Coke, she uncovers a group of men involved in betting on working-class youngsters convinced to play Russian roulette by standing in front of fast-coming trains to see who endures the longest.
With bodies of children crushed under tons of steel, those of adults yielding to relentless desire, the resolution of the investigation reveals the deep bonds which unite desire and death.
What makes this such an interesting read is the simplicity of the crime. Something so banal it could be a kids joke or a game, but with a little criminality it becomes something sinister instead of senseless and stupid.
Veronica stumbles upon the whiff of a story; a man who commits suicide purports to be a killer. He could no longer live with the guilt. Veronica becomes curious about what is really going on, starts to investigate and finds out more than she was prepared for.
Aside from the plot, I think Olguin gives an insight into the world of the men and women who have to cope with driving a killing machine, which often does just that. Sometimes it is accidental, sometimes it is just the circumstances and often it’s on purpose. The why is irrelevant when death stands on the tracks and waits for the impact. The why is also irrelevant when it comes to the sound and the end result.
Olguin writes with a keen sense of reality. The readers get a great feel for the surroundings, the limitations of certain economic situations and the people trapped in them. The desperation and yet simultaneously the joy at the small things in life. This is especially evident when it comes to the children. The joy of being able to buy sweets, snacks or a can of coke. There is a certain carefree feeling about them, despite the seriousness of the situation. The kind of feeling only children can embrace with such a bold attitude and enjoy with limitless abandonment.
It’s urban crime with a flair of literary fiction. Fair dues to the translator, but I would really love to read this in the original language.
Buy The Fragility of Bodies at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press: pub date 11 July 2019. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Bitter Lemon.