Join author, poet, and activist Carmen Rodríguez for the Ottawa launch of her new novel, Atacama.
Firmly rooted in historical events, Atacama tells the story of Manuel Garay, the son of a communist miner/union leader and an anarchist organizer of working-class women, and Lucía Céspedes, the daughter of a fascist army officer and a socialite. A fateful turn of events leads to twelve-year-old Lucía befriending twelve-year-old Manuel, inextricably connecting them to a common denominator: Lucía’s adoring father and the perpetrator of the heinous crimes that have caused both children immeasurable suffering. Manuel and Lucía forge a friendship that grows as they come of age and realize that their lives are not only linked by Ernesto Céspedes’ actions, but also by a deep understanding of the other’s emotional predicaments, their commitment to social justice and their belief in the power of writing and art. Set in the first half of the twentieth century, but resonating loudly with today’s changing times, beautifully crafted Atacama covers themes related to class, gender, trauma, survival and the role of art in society.
“This is an extraordinary book. While it spans over seventy years of a personal drama, it also portrays—both accurately and poignantly — Chile’s reality in the first half of the twentieth century, as well as that of the Spanish Civil War. But Atacama is much more than a sweeping historical novel, as it also delves deep into the psyches of its protagonists — Lucía and Manuel, who, as children, face up to horrendous personal tragedies and yet overcome them through their love of art and the written word, and their commitment to social justice. The crackling dramatic tension, the twists and turns in Lucía and Manuel’s lives, all the way to the conclusion of the story in present time Vancouver, Canada, are masterfully crafted. I cannot speak too highly of this work.” — John M. Kirk, Professor of Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University
“Atacama may be a novel, but it’s written with the authority of memoir, the directness of history, and the magic of poetry. A story of heroism and depravity in politics, and the struggle of two young people caught between the two.” — Susan Crean, cultural critic and author of The Laughing One and Finding Mr. Wong.
Born in Valdivia, Chile, Carmen Rodríguez came to Canada as a political exile in 1974. She is the author of Guerra Prolongada/Protracted War, a bilingual volume of poetry; and a body to remember with/De Cuerpo Entero, a collection of short stories; and Retribution, a novel.