Years later, the executive's wife asks Carvalho, ex-communist ex-CIA private investigator, to solve the mystery of his murder. I wanted to like this novel more than I did, if for no other reason than to set the mood for my visit to Barcelona in a couple weeks. This book has breasts and blowjobs (in a strangely matter-of-fact and completely incidental way), cigars, drink, and food, glorious food. He went over to the fireplace, tearing up the books with the relaxed expertise of one who is well practised, and arranged the dismembered tomes in a little pile, on top of which he placed dry twigs and kindling wood. There are some great set pieces even if I couldn't get the thing to hang as a whole in my currently fuzzy reader brain.
review of Manuel Vazquez Montalban's The Angst-Ridden Executive by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 31, 2015 To read the full review, please go here: "Franco is dead! According to the brief bio in the Quintet: "Born in Barcelona in 1939, MANUEL VASQUEZ MONTALBAN (1939-2003) was a member of Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya (PSUC), and was jailed by the Franco government for four years for supporting a miners' strike." His obviously substantial political know-how made the Quintet of deep interest to me & works just as well in Executive. Generalissimo Francisco Franco was dictator of Spain from 1939 to his death in 1975. He was the main military leader to overthrow the republic in the Spanish Civil War. This bk was originally published in 1977, 2 yrs after Franco's death, & much of it centers around post-Franco conditions in Barcelona. The one good thing about Franco was how happy people were when he died. The dedication of this bk is as follows: "One day the member of parliament Sole Barbera asked me: "When are you going to write another of your cops and robbers novels?" I have taken him at his word, and would like to dedicate The Angst-Ridden Executive to him." (p 5) 'Naturally', I had to ask: Who is/was Sole Barbera?: ..&, y'know what?, I didn't find Sole Barbera on the internet. I find "'And who benefits from this?'" to be a little out-of-character coming out of Biscuter's mouth but it gives the author the opportunity to say his piece. Montalban surprised me by having his recurring protagonist detective, Carvalho, be in the CIA: "He'd not so much as requested as demanded a window seat. To quote my own 1984 article on the subject, "The Suspicious Death of Jeffrey Steinberg, Stonehill Press Publisher": "Inside the Company was an important breakthrough in exposing the actualities of US covert assassinations, misinformation, overthrows, etc as contrasted with the public relations version of US government scruples." Perhaps Montalban didn't know about Agee's bk when he had Carvalho as a CIA agent - wch must've happened in an earlier bk than this one &, therefore, might've been before Agee's public revelations. "'Don't you know that it's against the law for a Spanish citizen to enrol in organizations like the CIA without authorization?' "'I started off giving Spanish lessons, not realizing that it was the CIA. When I left, I clarified my position with two ministries Foreign Affairs, and the Home Office.'" - p 166 Given Montalban's socialist background, there's more than a little humor to passages like the following: "'The only thing that worries me is the idea of a crisis looming, and my having to start acting like a foreman. You know what I mean?' "'You have the morality of a pinko.'" - p 11 Using the populist tool of detective fiction, what Montalban does is give an analysis of hidden possibilities in Spain's political transitioning & show how an observer might go about systematically researching something inspired by the methodology rendered thru the literary vehicle of his detective character. Petnay makes them all.'" - pp 22-23 Throughout it all, Franco recurs again & again as a subject of great rancor amongst Spaniards: "'It was only women and good food that saved us all from going mad under Franco.'" (p 23) For those of you w/ short-term memories only &/or little or no understanding of 20th century Spanish history, keep in mind that Franco was dictator for 36 yrs, that he was responsible for concentration camps & the deaths of 100s of 1,000s of people, that he heavily suppressed a popular elected republic, etc, etc.. I think the only reason he's lived this long is because he wanted Franco to die first.'" - p 139 At 1st, in a foreshadowing scene of central importance, Franco isn't dead yet: "By now Rhomberg was sufficiently drunk not to feel embarrassed. A recurring fictional character is the fictional detective's employee/friend/cook: "From the end of Carvalho's sentence to the present day, Biscuter had been in and out of prison many times. He'd been obsessed with the idea of setting up an anti-fascist resistance movement in the mountains." - p 33 &, in fact, there were armed resistance groups called the "Maquis" operating out of the Spanish mountains that were active from the loss of the Civil War in 1939 up 'til at least 1952 if not longer. Consider these excerpts from "Armed resistance to Franco, 1939-1965" by Antonio Téllez: "Very little has been written about the scale of the armed struggle against Franco following the civil war. According to Franco's personal friend Civil Guard Lieutenant-General Camilo Alonso Vega - who was in charge of the anti-guerrilla campaign for twelve years - banditry (the term the Francoists always used to describe the guerrilla activity) was of "great significance" in Spain, in that it "disrupted communications, demoralised folk, wrecked our economy, shattered our unity and discredited us in the eyes of the outside world. "Only days before those words were uttered General Franco himself had excused the blanket silence imposed on reports of armed opposition and the efforts mounted to stop it, when he had stated that "the Civil Guard's sacrifices in the years following the Second World War were made selflessly and in silence, because, for political and security reasons it was inappropriate to publicise the locations, the clashes, casualty figures or names of those who fell in performance of their duty, in a heroic and unspoken sacrifice." "This cover-up has continued right up until our own day. Not that this should come as any surprise - during the period described as the political transition to democracy (November 1975 to October 1982) all political forces, high financiers, industrialists, the military and church authorities decided that references to the past were inappropriate and that the protracted blood-letting of the Franco era should be consigned to oblivion. On completion of 'business', those 'visited' would be left a note like the following one, left at the home of a wealthy big-store owner, Manuel Garriga: ""We are not robbers, we are libertarian resistance fighters. As for you, Garriga, although you are a murderer and a thief, we have spared you, because we as libertarians appreciate the value of human life, something which you never have, nor are likely to, understand." "A small example of how, despite the loss of the war, and despite the ruthlessness of the fascist repression, those involved in the resistance still managed to maintain their politics, their humanity, and their self-respect." - https://libcom.org/history/1939-1965-... When you work for a big multinational, the world takes on quite different geographical divisions.'" - p 40 Montalban is careful to explore the various possibilities of character type in the early days of post-Franco Spain: "Nuñez had been a pioneer in the reconstruction of the Left in Barcelona University during the nineteen fifties.
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán seguiría mostrándonos a través de los ojos de Carvalho una mirada crítica y pesimista sobre la sociedad de aquel momento. Carvalho, desde su despacho situado al final de las Ramblas, y a través de una panorámica privilegiada desde su ventana para observar lo que acontecía en la ciudad, nos ofrecería en este libro una de las mejores crónicas de aquellos años y los mejores fotogramas de la ciudad.
Among his many works was the Pepe Carvalho series, which features a rumpled private detective. Set mostly in Barcelona, the series is interesting because Pepe, like his creator, shares an affinity for Post-Franco left-wing politics.
Claro, los excesos alimentarios y las miradas largas bajo los escotes profundos son las marcas de destinción de PP Carvalho, no obstante, en "La soledad" el autor no acertó a mezclar estos elementos en la masa del texto de una manera uniforme y balanceada. Los capítulos que relatan una parte del pasado de Carvalho no aportan casi nada en el argumento: es peor, pintan un retrato de la víctima poco creíble y no privado de contradicciones.
En la literatura los bajos fondos del poder, la cara oculta de las altas esferas y sus intrincadas tramas han dado mucho material para la ficción -y no tanta ficción-; en el caso de Manuel Vázquez Montalbán esa necesidad de explicar ese mundo sórdido y corrupto viene de la mano del detective Pepe Carvalho y sus investigaciones como detective privado.
Set in post-Franco Spain, this book is the most political I have read, not only because most of the major characters, including the detective, spent time in jail protesting the Franco regime, but because the way politics motivates much of the plot.
Tra frasi memorabili e fantasmi mai morti la vicenda si svolge lentamente con flashback dell'incontro statunitense fra Pepe e il manager.