Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Painter of Battles


Arturo Perez-Reverte's 'The Painter of Battles' was an accidental find in the crowded airport of Puerto Vallarta on our way back from a vacation. I was looking to find a work from a spanish writer to top off the wonderful time we had in Mexico and this book instantly grabbed my attention.

Arturo is a prolific writer and his work is a reflection on his own years spent reporting wars in various parts of the world. A war photographer is often a witness to the history before it is told and retold, bent and distorted, massaged and manipulated for popular consumption. The story starts at the solitary home of the war photographer in some spanish coastal town; he spends his time painting a mural and swimming in the ocean until the day a man comes looking for him. The visitor had known the painter intimately, studied his works and had a reason to visit him - he wanted to kill the painter for what one of his war photos had done to his life. A deep and enthralling voyage begins down the memory lane sprinkled with his interpretations of the works of the Spanish master painters and his own experiences of photographing the vicious acts of humankind. May be the middle of the book got a bit of long winding and the end may not have been the exact climax you were looking for, but the book captures the loneliness of the souls who share the longing for a peaceful world. It gazes the chaotic world and find the resolutions to the conflicts as the ultimate failure of human imagination. At times it even finds wars to be the natural state of human beings.

This book will remain in my mind as a fine rendition of the front lines of war, much like Sebastiapol. It reiterates my own impressions on the wars we fight every day - what we often miss out when we only see the war between good and evil is that on the battlefields there is only evil.