Author: Antonio Muñoz Molina
Publisher: Seix Barral
Paperback, 445 pages.
As the blog is written English, it was my intention to comment on books if not written in this language at least available in the translated version. Antonio Muñoz Molina is member of the Royal Spanish Academy and one of the most prominent Spanish contemporary writers. But to my surprise,that seems not to be reason enough to translate all his works.
Some stories, classified as detective genre go beyond the crime itself, giving us a masterful insight into the human mind. Plenilunio is one of those books. I have to admit that the meticulous description of such hideous crime is disturbing at times as it´s so vivid it could be a photograph.
Although the atrocious crime is the connecting thread that holds the story, is sometimes left in the background and the author focuses on the reflection of the lives of the characters.
Molina doesn´t provide the reader with the exact time-frame in which the action takes places nor he provides the name of the city where the story develops. The film The Silence of the Lambs is mentioned a couple of times, so we can guess that the action happened between the early and the mid 90´s. The description of the landscape outside the city seem to belong to Andalucía, where the author is from.
The story revolves around 3 main characters and a series of secondary characters:
The police detective. No name and a succinct physical description. He reflects many of the characteristics of noir fiction: a difficult life, uprooting, violence (Franco´s disctatorship, ETA terrorism, the crime itself). His life is overcome by the loss of hope and guilt.
If there is a crime, there is a culprit. And in Plenilunio the murderer has a voice from the beginning. Again no name, but a little less squalid physical description.(The description of his hands is spine chilling). His life is driven by a routine he wholeheartedly despises and is full of the strongest resentment and hate.
Susana Grey, the teacher. Of the three main characters, hers is the only name we know. A woman who is in the path of regaining the control of her life.She is cultivated and passionate about music and literature and seems to be the subtle force that will bring the detective out of his grey existence.
The secondary characters add depth to the story. The priest, Padre Orduña, gives us an insight into the detective´s childhood; the forensic surgeon, Ferreras serves us as a vehicle to know more about the teacher´s life. Even the description of the houses reflects the lives of the characters; the detective´s is empty, the teacher´s is full of music and literature and the murderer is clattered and oppressive.
This book strikes me as a constant contrast, hatred and love; contempt and tenderness; night and day.And all this elements are masterfully portrayed. The helplessness of the characters to understand evil, may as well be a reflexion on the human capacity for it but the incapacity to understand its true nature.
Plenilunio is a disturbing, tense and wonderfully written story and Molina´s storytelling is superb.