‘The Painter of Battles’ (original title: ‘El Pintor de Batallas’), written by a well-known Spanish writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte, was published in 2006. It was considered to be one of the biggest literary events in Spain, since the author is highly respectable and admired and his novels have gained numerous fans, both Spanish and international, over the years. After such novels as ‘The Flanders Panel’ (1990) or ‘The Club Dumas’ (1993) readers had high expectations and waited impatiently to get lost in pages filled with reality created by the author once more.
Andrés Faulques, the main protagonist of the novel, used to work as a war photographer. His photos were supposed to reflect hardships, tragedies, evil and anguish brought by wars as well as the most primitive human instincts. He was unresponsive to suffering of individuals and what was of vast importance for him was to reach the only aim he had – presenting the cruelty of war as precisely as he could. He didn’t want to change the world, he wasn’t even influenced by all the horrid images he’d been exposed to. A turning point in his professional and personal life was the death of his beloved Olvido, a photographer who died after treading on a mine. Faulques gave up his job, bought a tower by the sea and decided to create a painting on its walls. The painting which depicted a battle, but not just an ordinary one. It was supposed to be the quintessence of all wars and battles. However, his isolated, little world was violated by Ivo, a stranger who turned out to be one of the people Falques had presented in his photographs. The man claimed that photographer’s impassive attitude and the presence of the camera in the middle of ongoing tragedies made him lose his sense of existence. Ivo decided to find Falques, pass judgement and finally punish the reporter by killing him. However, before he put his plans into practice, the accuser wanted to understand the photographer’s way of thinking, the motives of his behaviour. It led the two men to start a metaphorical journey through diverse aspects of life and art, in order to comprehend the sense of one’s existence.
I adore and really admire Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s literary skills and find his writing style very interesting. ‘The Flanders Panel’ or ‘The Club Dumas’ are ones of my favourite books ever and after reading a few positive reviews concerning ‘The Painter Of Battles’ I hoped it would be a good choice. However, I was highly disappointed, since the novel didn’t live up to my expectations. It turned out to be a boring, elaborate set of descriptions, which made the book lame and lacking in action and dynamism. Not enough dialogues made the novel monotonous and difficult to follow. While reading I had an impression that the plot wouldn’t lead anywhere and I was really overwhelmed by a descriptive tenor dominating in the novel. I guess every author, even the best one, has some weak moments from time to time. For me, ‘The Painter Of Battles’ is a good example of that.
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