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The Painter of Battles

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  3,134 ratings  ·  338 reviews
The internationally bestselling author of The Club Dumas and The Queen of the South delivers his most ambitious and profoundly affecting novel to date--a tale that, more than ever, confirms his ability as a writer of extraordinary literary power.
Hardcover, 211 pages
Published January 8th 2008 by Random House (first published 2006)
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3.63  · 
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 ·  3,134 ratings  ·  338 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Jun 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: spanish-authors
An internationally-known war photographer has hung up his camera and retired as a hermit to an abandoned structure near Barcelona. He is painting the entire interior of his lighthouse-type structure with a battle scene. It is a battle scene that transcends time, partly re-creating famous battle paintings from ancient ones to more modern ones like Guernica.


The painter's work is interrupted by a visitor, a former soldier that the photographer captured on film in Croatia and made famous. The soldi
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Originally written here.


After Isaac Newton laid his 3rd law of motion, almost every branch of science agreed with him. I suppose, even religion does. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It is the fundamental symmetry of the universe. Our every action draws an imaginary path, an effect. Sometimes even a small change may result to a large difference.

Andrés Faulques, a war photographer by profession, decided to leave his famous life and secluded himself in a towe
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A novel that may have been better as a short story. The premise, and some of the dialog in the first and last 50 pages, were intriguing. A retired and reclusive war photographer is visited by a Croat he once photographed retreating from a battle. That one photo, an award-winning one, had unexpected, and tragic, repercussions in the subject's life, and now he wants to kill the photographer. But not before the two engage in pages and pages of discussions about art, war, cruelty, death, love, respo ...more
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary-lit
The Painter of Battles is a beautifully written word picture encompassing everything from "the Butterfly effect", to art history lessons, to a morality homily on the futility of war and the evil that man bestows on his fellow man.

Perez-Reverte draws you into the story as he meticulously recounts (probably from his own experiences as a war journalist) example after example of the insanity of war and examines the cruelty and finality of its outcome. In essence, Perez-Reverte gives us and in depth
Aug 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009, general-fiction
I was wary coming into this one after having given up on the last Pérez-Reverte book I tried. This wariness was a little uncalled for, since I had immensely enjoyed three others he wrote, but in the end it was justified. I went back and forth between being intrigued and downright bored, and quite truthfully only the slim 200-page count convinced me to see it through.

The main character, Faulques, is a former war photographer who has retired to an old tower to paint a mural of battles, an attempt
Ally Armistead
Aug 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four out of five stars for "The Painter of Battles"--dark, beautiful, dense, intellectual. The story follows the odd final days of a retired war photographer, who has retreated into a watchtower in Italy to paint a ghastly war-themed mural and is encountered by a Croatian soldier he photographed years before.

Angry and grief-stricken at the loss of his wife and child, the Croatian solider--who holds the photographer's portrait of him accountable for their deaths--intends to kill him, exact reven
Sep 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Painter of Battles is a compelling story of self-reflection, loss and suspense overlaid with a well-researched discussion of the history of images. If I were not already an art historian, this book may have inspired me to become one with its offering of romanticism and sentimentality that such a thought would once have entailed for me in my youth. But, of course, if I were not an art historian its many art historical references may have been too opaque to illuminate th ...more
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
One of the many reasons why I love Perez-Reverte's books is that they follow no set formula or pattern except that they are all off-beat in their own way. But this one pushes the envelope, I think and in the end, after recovering from what is a very, very dark view of human nature, I think it is among his best, if not the best.[return][return]Perez-Reverte, before he took up writing full-time, was a war journalist; the list of those he covered includes Bosnia, Croatia, El Salvador, Lebanon, and ...more
Disha Bose O'Shea
Dec 03, 2015 rated it liked it
A war photographer has retired to an isolated island off Costa Brava, where he spends his days painting a large mural on the insides of the walls of an old deserted watch tower. The painting is a summation of his experiences, his beliefs, his view of the world and war and art. He has lost the woman he loved and he is no longer a passive artist on battlefields, capturing a moment. Until, a man he had photographed in the past arrives on the island - to kill him.

The plot is fantastic, the writing
Natalie  Foster
Aug 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: liberals, conservatives, pacificsts, war-mongers, painters, photographers, tour guides
Recommended to Natalie by: other books by the same author
Commenting on a book one has read in translation is a bit dicey. Whose language am I praising? Even in translation, however, it is clear Perez-Reverte is a gifted teller-of-tales and creator of character, of mood, and of story. "The Flanders Panel" was the first of his books I read and I have been hooked ever since. If you haven't read that, run -- do not walk -- to your favorite independent bookseller and hope they have it on the shelf as well as this one. Now -- to "The Painter of Battles." Wa ...more
Aug 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: RORY.
If I could give half ratings, this book would score a 4 1/2 has it's flaws but quite a few passages are quite brilliant.

The basic premise is the life story, looking towards the past, of a famous war photographer. He's isolated and painting a huge battle to rival anything he's seen in real life throughout all of the countries and people he's photographing at war.

But very soon within the first part of the book, he's confronted by a man who was the subject of one of his photos...the man
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"The Painter of Battles" is the most discouraging, harsh and sad novel that Arturo Perez-Reverte wrote. But it's definitely the most lucid and ambitious.

A four days journey, full of stories about love, death, guilt and violence, with an unexpected end.

In the South of Spain, in a tower on the Mediterranean shore, a former photographer paints an enormous circular fresco: a battle landscape, where he wants to cover all the images he could not capture on his film. To accomplish his goal, he will be
Apr 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intense novel for people interested in art. Prize-winner war photographer Faulques retires from his profession to a tower in Spain, where he decides painting a battle mural will be the culmination of his life's work. He believes that painting can be real in ways photography has failed him: in conveying the brutality yet inevitability of human aggression. His plan is disrupted when one of his subjects, a Serbian soldier, shows up unexpectedly to settle a score. The interchange between the two- ...more
Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perez-Reverte is one of my favorite contemporary authors. This book has moments of brilliant and beautifully insightful writing. Mirroring the main character's obsession with a painting depicting the horrors of warfare, Perez-Reverte uses his words and images to give brushstrokes of meaning. The overall effect leaves the reader somewhat haunted by the seeming meaninglessness of human existence. This was a difficult and interesting book of ideas that struck the same note many times in slightly di ...more
This book is like a one act play in which the main character, previously a war photographer in the Balkans, gives up his career to live in seclusion and paint the inside of the lighthouse in which he lives. However, a man whose life he affected by doing nothing but shooting photographs of the suffering, has decided he will camp out at the painter's home and eventually kill him, to the painter's knowledge. While he is there, he tries to make the painter gain emotional attachments. The book provid ...more
Jul 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
Whew. This was a well-written book but man was it depressing. I don't think I cracked a smile from beginning to end. I'd like to read more of this author though; I hear his other books are more action packed. This was good despite a minimal plot. It was more philosophical and tended to get very deep at times.
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly tightly composed thriller and philosophical treatise in one. War, photography, painting, love all in one intricate concentrated volume that inspires the reader to immediately re-read and study.
Jul 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A war photographer retires to a tower on the coast of Spain, where he begins a mural of battles past and present, when he is interrupted by a stranger who wants to kill him. This is a novel of philosophy and art, and an exploration of love .
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Although this is one of my favorite authors, I slogged through this one.
Feb 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
“The more obvious everything is, the less sense it seems to make.”
“There’s no way out then?”
“There are consolations. The prisoner running as they shoot at him believes he’s free . . . “

While traveling to visit my ailing mom, I brought this book along as my only reading companion, fueled by distant memory and the emotions this tremendous novel stirred within me several years ago, bone-deep, while also being at a signpost in my life where the horizon is clearer than ever, where the horse-sense of
Juan Arellano
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
A few years ago I tried to read this book and I left it after the first chapter. I found it slow and boring. A few days ago I took it back and finally I was able to read it completely. It happens that the style and theme of the work is very different from previous APR books that I had read, all full of adventures, characters and action plots. Here the novelist relaxes and writes in a more personal key, full of reflections and, above all, pessimism. But once one grasps the trick the reading flows ...more
Jul 26, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Philosophical pessimists
Rating: 2.5, because while slow-starting and depressing, it really does make you think.


“Geometry” is a recurring word and concept throughout Arturo Perez-Reverte’s dark novel, THE PAINTER OF BATTLES. His protagonist, Andres Faulques, photo-journalist turned painter, uses it to try and make sense of all the horror he has photographed covering wars. The book is more geometric “proof” or theorem than story, and is a difficult read, both for the complexity of Faulques’
Jeff Scott
Apr 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book discusses the horrors of war and the futility of capturing it for others to see. Are you trying to tell the horrors of war to dissuade it, or are you really fascinated by it (and in that way perpetuate it?)

Faulques is a war photographer, or was one. He now focuses on a mural to adorn the wall of a lighthouse. It shall feature every famous battle depicted over the centuries of war. He is interrupted by his own past. A subject of one of his award winning photographs has sought him out, t
Al Maki
Jan 17, 2019 added it
Shelves: story
The main action is an extended discussion in which the painter, who is painting a mural of unending war, presents the view that war is the most perfect representation of the human condition as an apologia pro sua vita. His interlocutor is a victim of the Yugoslavian civil war seeking vengeance and understanding of the painter. The painter photographed warfare for thirty years but concluded it that the truth about it could only by expressed in painting and has switched metiers. Although it sounds ...more
Saskia Marijke Niehorster-Cook
This is my fourth book of Arturo Perez-Reverte, and the one that gives the closest psychological insight to the writer. I have heard that he is reticent about letting his work be translated into other languages, perhaps in fear that the meaning will be lost or that the beauty of his words will fade. I admit that his writing is so lush and lovely and perhaps it does lose some value in the translation, but luckily for me, i am able to read it in Spanish, it's original version, so I do not know how ...more
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another magnificent modern novel by Perez-Reverte. Just a few characters, but how well they are described.
Feb 20, 2018 rated it did not like it
Read this for the Strathmore book discussion group. I did not like it at all. It was depressing - all about his internal conflict with the wars he covered and the scenes he witnesses and photographed. It almost felt evil. Was not a good book to read while sick - which I was. I did not like the writing style. Too many run on sentences. And he really likes to use hyphens to create even longer sentences. Would not recommend this book to anyone.
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favorites
An extremely good read!! I don't think I'll ever be able to look at photography or art in the same way again. Author Arturo Perez-Reverte is a master storyteller and this book is one of my favorites.
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A war photographer gives up photography to become something of a recluse and paint war scenes on the inside walls of an old tower, where he is found by a Croatian man he once photographed and whose life was inevitably altered by that single shot and who has come for his revenge.

The premise and some of the dialogues were intriguing in this exploration of the effect of the observer on the observed, but my attention wavered throughout and I frequently thought of quitting. I have read other books by
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The Painter of Battles: A Novel, by Arturo Pérez-Reverte 1 12 Jan 13, 2014 07:43PM  

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Spanish novelist and ex-journalist. He worked as a war reporter for twenty-one years (1973 - 1994). He started his journalistic career writing for the now-defunct newspaper Pueblo. Then, he jumped to news reporter for TVE, Spanish national channel. As a war journalist he traveled to several countries, covering many conflicts. He put this experience into his book 'Territorio Comanche', focusing on ...more
“Nadie debería irse sin dejar una Troya ardiendo a sus espaldas.” 17 likes
“En un mundo donde el horror se vende como arte, donde el arte nace ya con la pretensión de ser fotografiado, donde convivir con las imágenes del sufrimiento no tiene relación con la conciencia ni con la compasión, las fotos de guerra no sirven para nada.” 7 likes
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