Jeff Scott's Reviews > The Absent Sea

The Absent Sea by Carlos Franz
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May 26, 12

bookshelves: fiction, latin-america-fiction, own
Read from May 07 to 26, 2012

There are times in our lives in which we must face something unthinkable. We must face our fears with no one around for guidance or support, isolated. The decision we make in that moment can often define who we are. When facing pure evil and with many lives at stake could we make the right decision? Furthermore, should we judge those placed in that position? These are some of the points made in Franz's The Absent Sea. Set upon the backdrop of Pampa Hundida, an isolated spot in Chile, spanning from the coup de etat of 1973 to 1993 after the end of the dictatorship of Pinochet. Those decisions from our youth come back to haunt us. Can we redeem ourselves now for our past decisions and set things right?

Laura Larco was the youngest judge in Chile before the 1973 coup de etat. When the military took over she fled the country. 20 years later her daughter challenges her to return, almost tauntingly. Asking where she was when all these horrible things happened. The military tribunals, the killing of political prisoners and so much worse. The horrors revealed in this book highlight both the cruelty of those with power as well as those to afraid to speak against them. That fear and the guilt thereafter drive the story both past and present as Laura attempts to answer her daughters accusation.

Laura attempts to answer her daughter in a letter. The story alternates between what happened then and Laura's return during the Diablo festival. In those three days not only is Laura's story revealed, but all of Chile's.

Although the author tends to use overly flowery language (or it could be the translation), I loved the imagery, symbolism, and the use of guilt. It reminded me of books that use the German Guilt as in Bernard Schlink's The Reader. The next generation judging what happened before. Although in this case, it is those who stood by, who endured that is called into question. In Claudia's question is a question of the people of Chile, how could you let this happen? Laura's answer reveals so much more in the book's shocking conclusion.

Favorite Lines:

" That could be one paradoxical virtue of old age, I suppose: the memories which used to frighten us, sadden us, gradually lose their power to be so devastating." p. 59

"He lacked the ability to burn all those stories and begin others from scratch, starting from zero until coming up with a fair copy at last. He lacked what it took to die at least once, which is what every writer needs before setting himself to write..." p. 29

"He still hand't had time enough to learn that you can't save the truly innocent ones. Laura imagined the years of his career ahead of him, the assignments, the promotions, the demotions into the abyss of bureaucracy that would become more and more tedious, while for him the dead child would still be drowning in his impossible dream..." p. 287

"And at the same moment, I realized that my attempted resignation was the last arrogant gesture of an insolent youth when I had believed myself capable of serving justice. My ridiculous project of resigning "publically" was completely out of place, since one does not renounce innocence; you lose it, that's all." p. 324

"...just as in the huge stadiums, people needed to hear the description of what lay before their eyes in order t comprehend its meaning, in order to see themselves in their collective dimensions. She thought: the people, the nation, the church are always the "others", the story that makes the "other" out of us; but in truth we are isolated individuals, all alone, incapable of narrating us to ourselves, barely touched by the voice calling out to us in the desert." p. 328
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Reading Progress

05/11/2012 page 1
0.0% "#fridayreads"
05/15/2012 page 29
8.0% "He lacked the ability to burn all those stories and begin others from scratch, starting from zero until coming up with a fair copy at last. He lacked what it took to die at least once, which is what every writer needs before setting himself to write..."
05/18/2012 page 59
16.0% "#fridayreads That could be one paradoxical virtue of old age, I suppose: the memories which used to frighten us, sadden us, gradually lose their power to be so devastating."
05/25/2012 page 375
100.0% "#fridayreads"

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