What else is new?

Jonathan Coe

  • The Long Night of White Chickens by Francisco Goldman
    Faber, 450 pp, £14.99, January 1993, ISBN 0 571 16098 0

One of the more disarming sentences in Francisco Goldman’s impressive first novel comes near the end, when his hero-narrator, Roger Graetz, takes a bus journey up into the Guatemalan highlands and stops off in a village just as the Indians are packing up their market in a dirt plaza. Brooding over what he knows about the village – how the army has only recently allowed nuns and priests back in, how the Indians have refused to return to the rectory because of all the people who have been tortured to death there – Roger finds himself tiredly incapable of outrage, and almost catches himself responding to the story with a jaded shrug of the shoulders: ‘Poverty, soldiers, nuns and priests, torture’ he reflects, ‘what else is new?’

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