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Kamchatka

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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  771 ratings  ·  119 reviews
In 1976 Buenos Aires, a ten-year-old boy lives in a world of school lessons and comic books, TV shows and games of Risk--a world in which men have superpowers and boys can conquer the globe on a rectangle of cardboard. But in his hometown, the military has just seized power, and amid a climate of increasing terror and intimidation, people begin to disappear without a trace ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  771 ratings  ·  119 reviews


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Ken
Jun 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
By the end of this book, I had literally moved in. That is, felt like a part of the family, like my soul was lip-synching to the 10-year-old narrator's story, like I had renounced plot forever in favor of voice and characterization.

Yeah. I liked it that much, because although it is set in Argentina in the 70s, the allusions are ones that any American can identify with (Superman, Batman, The Saint, The Invaders, Picnic, The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Goofy, Harry Houdini, and on and on). Yes, y
...more
Claire
Kamchatka is a novel by the Argentinian writer Marcelo Figueras set in 1976, one year during a disturbing era of Argentinian history under military dictatorship, often referred to as The Dark Ages, a time when speaking out against the establishment gave rise to a terrible number of “Disappeared”.

Ordinary people vanished without trace, neither arrested nor imprisoned, there was no record of their detainment, they simply disappeared, believed to have been disposed off.

The author mentioned in an in
...more
Garry
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I remember hearing about the 'disappeared' when I was a kid - the rumours (were they rumours?) that people were being kidnapped, thrown out of aeroplanes and never seen again. That's something that stays with you forever... I've thought about it from time to time ever since, and it only seems more ghoulish the older I get.

This is the backdrop to Kamchatka, told from the viewpoint of a small boy whose parents are in the political firing line (a poor choice of phrase, probably). He's a smart kid,
...more
Kirsty
Marcelo Figueras' Kamchatka, which is set in Argentina, was the final South American book of my Around the World in 80 Books challenge. Kamchatka, which has been translated from its original Spanish by Frank Wynne, is a coming of age story which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Kamchatka was a novel which I have never seen reviewed on blogs or Goodreads, and was so intrigued by the storyline that I did not consider any other books set in Argentina for my challenge. It se
...more
Jeanette (Again)
Pssssst...it's not really about Kamchatka, except as it relates to the board game of Risk. "Because Kamchatka was the place from where you fought back."

This is a rather charming novel about a very uncharming time in the history of Argentina. You witness life during the Dirty War in 1976 through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy whose family has gone into hiding. The way it ends will make you want to hold your loved ones closer than ever.
...more
Trish
May 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is not a book to read when one is in a hurry. If you have a stack of things to “get through” and want to check this off the list, I urge you to put it aside until you have time to savor the language, and the languorous time of childhood when small realities intrude upon days of fantasy and play.

The time is Argentina in the 1970’s, when political disappearances are common. A new government has taken over from the Peron government and suddenly opponents of the new government find themselves
...more
Friederike Knabe
Jun 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: latin-america
He calls himself 'Harry' now, after his new hero, the famous escape artist, Harry Houdini, hoping that one day he, too, will be a successful escape artist. Discovering a book about Houdini, the ten-year-old boy finds a new source of inspiration. Without warning, his family had to leave their comfortable house in Buenos Aires with nothing but the bare essentials; they are now hiding in an abandoned country house, a "safe-house". Among all the things he misses, his favourite board game 'Risk' is t ...more
Gavin
I loved this book. Told from the point of view of a ten-year-old during Argentina's dirty war, it is gentle, moving and hard to put down. ...more
Anna
Apr 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Via the eyes, ears and inner world of a young boy in Buenos Aires, this powerful novel brings to life the atmosphere of disquiet and desperation following Argentina’s military coup of 1976. Our hero is ten and lives in a world of superheroes, school lessons and games of Risk, trying to keep his troublesome little brother, the Midget, from breaking everything he touches, and playing Hangman with his best friend during biology class. His playful father is a human rights lawyer, his mother a physic ...more
Dale
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kamchatka is a wonderful novel. It is set in Argentina in 1976, the year of the military coup and the start of the 'dirty war' in which thousands of politically progressive people were rounded up and 'disappeared'. The novel is told mostly from the point of view of the ten year old son of a lawyer and a scientist who are on the run from the coup government. He and his five year old brother ("The Midget") are bundled up and taken to a disused country house, a safe house, to avoid the military pol ...more
Judith Hannan
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book over a year ago thinking a story about political rebellion in mid-1970s Buenos Aires was going to be some kind of treatise. I was so wrong. Figueras has written a loving and human story. The story is simple. Told in the voice of a man revisiting his childhood, the reader is brought into the intimate family life of a husband and wife, both dissidents, and their two sons. The man's memories are detailed,authentic, and often laugh-out-loud funny as he shows his younger self and t ...more
Shonna Froebel
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translations
This novel is told by a man looking back at a few months from his childhood the year he was ten.
Structured like a school day with each section a subject, this book follows a young boy in Argentina in 1976. His parents have spoken out against the government and feel threatened. They pull him and his younger brother, referred to as Midget, out of school in the middle of the day, whisking them off to a house in the country with only the items they have with them. His favourite game is Risk. In Risk
...more
Amélie Rêverie
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Inspiring, Life-Affirming Novel (from Argentina!)
Kamchatka? Is it a foreign candy? A Native American tribe? For 10-year-old Harry, it's a frozen Russian peninsula—the last stronghold in his favorite game of Risk—and the last thing his father whispers to him before disappearing llike so many other political activists in the '70s during the Argentine "dirty war." When friends start going missing, the Vincente family is forced into a state of suspended animation as they leave their life behind a
...more
Cristine
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun, lovely, horrific and fascinating book. The story of a young Argentinian boy during the Dirty War. His parents are Peronista revolutionaries who flee their home in Buenos Aires and assume new identities in an effort to keep the family together. The story develops through the eyes of "Harry" --his assumed named as the family assumes the surname "Vincente" after the character in the TV show the Saint. Harry's musings range from the powers of Houdini and superman to saving frogs from drowning i ...more
Claire
Aug 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historic-fiction
As with all historic fiction, the more one knows about the period, the richer the read. And when I don't know, I am prompted to learn the history. This novel is set during Argentina's military dictatorship, 1976-1984 or so, a time of repression, witch hunts, and people disappearing.

Distance is created by two things: The perspective is of an elder, reflecting on life, on past actions, philosophizing. And often the narration slips into the voice of a ten-year-old boy who is somewhat removed from p
...more
lark benobi
I was on the edge of being beguiled by the story over and over again, but as I read along I honestly kept thinking: "Is this author primarily a screenwriter?" until I finally looked the author up online and discovered Figueras did indeed write this novel first as a screenplay.

So here is what I often feel is off with novels written by writers who are primarily screenplay writers. There will be no clear sense of an inner narrative voice driving their story. The details will be scanty. There will b
...more
Arna
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this after listening to Harriet Gilbert discuss it on "A Good Read", broadcast on the BBC. Set in 1970s Argentina, and told from the point of view of a 10 year old, after his parents take the family into hiding. When the family flees, they have to change their names, and our narrator changes his name to Harry, after Harry Houdini - the only things he finds in his room in the safe house is a book about the escape artist. Harry's parents - his mother a professor and his father a lawyer , a ...more
Robert Lambregts
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars, maybe close to 4,5 even (5 for me is for the exceptional really good, legendary books that made a lasting impression to me. This is almost that).
I won't repeat the entire story, all I can say is that this book seems to be just a small tale from the point of view of a 10 year old in the darker years of Argentina, but nearing the end, especially the final chapters, it gave me goosebumps. The storytelling is very personal, there is room for joy and sadness. I received this book years ago
...more
Mark Staniforth
Beautiful and elegaic, this book tells the heart-breaking story of a family torn apart by the Argentinian military junta in the 1970s. It's told from the point of view of a 10-year-old boy, who uses superheroes and board games to keep the truth at bay in the best way he can. At times it's both funny and chilling, but in a certain respect its beauty and cleverness is also its slight failing: the plot sometimes plods; the terror, always there in the background, never quite comes to the fore; some ...more
Michelle
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latin-american
A story about a military coup in Argentina may not sound like enjoyable reading, but in Kamchatka it's told from the point of view of a 10 year old boy, whose focus is not on the coup itself, but on how the coup effects his family and the relationships within the family. And his access to his favourite TV programmes. The book captures very well a child's view of the world - an awareness of bigger things but largely ignoring them to focus on more important small details of everyday life, such as ...more
Andra Watkins
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Against the backdrop of The Disappeared in Argentina, a little boy struggles to stay connected with what matters to him. His family is in hiding. His parents both lost their jobs. His little brother doggedly demands the things that make life stay the same. People ebb and flow from his life, while he spends more time saving the toads from death in the back yard pool. This book will make you hug someone you love, reach out to a person you need to touch, value a relationship anew. It is a gorgeous ...more
Kathy Hiester
Kamchatka is a pragmatic imagining of a child’s understanding of a country in political turmoil. The potential dangers come from eavesdropping on vague conversations. The narrator spends most of his time describing his amusing adventures with his younger brother, his efforts to imitate Harry Houdini and his obsession with Superman. The overall effect is that of a happy childhood occasionally marred by darker overtones. The narrator’s voice is enchantingly youthful and buoyant. The novel thrives ...more
Andy Weston
Feb 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Made a special effort to read this as, living in Chile, I want to know more about the Argentinian problems of recent years.

This is extremely well-written and amusing despite it's subject matter. Thoroughly recommended to adults even though it's a book aged at teenagers.

Tremendous. Lots of good quotations and facts as a bonus also!

Also - one of those books with a very satisfying ending - special also for players of Risk!
...more
Linda
Mar 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, fiction
What an absolutely wonderful book! I wish I could write a review that would do this justice. This could have been an extremely depressing book considering the subject matter(Argentina & the coup in the 1970's) but instead it's very sweet & moving. There was a moment a little more than half way thru that just about broke my heart in two. When I finished I just sat there,barely breathing.

...more
Shanna Covey
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We have a chance to enter the mind of a ten year old (interspersed with his adult perspective) as his world is turned upside down when his family is forced to go into hiding during Argentina's "Dirty War" in 1975. ...more
Gina Whitlock
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book of happiness and joy within a sad and tragic time of life - the 70's in Argentina. The family is hiding out from the military and this story from the ten year old boy's point-of-view is humerous and tender. ...more
Rachel
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This really resonated with me. I loved the lyrical writing style and the narrator's thought process and the Renaissance topic list. It will make you laugh, and then it will break your heart. ...more
Rebecca
Even when I appreciate it, I have to admit to often finding contemporary South American literature fairly difficult to read, so this made a nice change. It can be obtuse - but in a different way as it looks at Argentina in the 1970s and the story of those who disappeared through the eyes of a ten year old child. Mostly we follow his family’s time in hiding through his understanding of things that he has seen or overheard - some of which he understands and others of which he misreads completely. ...more
Lawrence
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Through the eyes of a child, we come to understand the events surrounding the dark period in Argentine history. He is told that the family are going on holiday, but this holiday feels very different. And he becomes Harry and can never tells his real name, or ask certain questions of himself or others. It is a period that he vaguely recalls the larger political events involved, but one that he will continue to reflect on during his “exile” and after the fact, one that requires him to escape to th ...more
Josué
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Honestly the ending made me tear up, as a finale it makes me sad already, but knowing that this finale was a reality many families had to go through during the military dictatorship that Argentina, as well as many other countries suffered, breaks my heart. The uncertainty, fear and oppression felt in the life of whoever had a different opinion. All told from the perspective of a kid who didn't fully understand what was going on, a kid who had to find safety in the remoteness of Kamchatka. This m ...more
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“I know it doesn't sound logical but that's the way it is ' said papá. 'There are people who try to control the people they love or try to make them feel insecure or inferior or unworthy. They can be very hurtful but they're the sad people. They're afraid of being abandoned they're afraid of not being loved.' pg 116” 7 likes
“If life was a movie and someone asked you what kind of a movie it was the best answer would be: it's a movie that makes you laugh and cry at the same time. Grandpa knew that. pg. 223” 6 likes
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