Magazine article World Literature Today

Affections

Magazine article World Literature Today

Affections

Article excerpt

Rodrigo Hasbún. Affections. Trans. Sophie Hughes. New York. Simon & Schuster. 2017. 132 pages.

In this compact and evocative historical novel, a filmmaker flees from the scene of the twentieth century's greatest crime, only to find his family enmeshed in a deadly struggle on another continent. A skilled cameraman, Hans Ertl was a key member of Leni Riefenstahl's Nazi propaganda unit, but when World War II ended, he was rendered a pariah in his native Germany. Now Hans, his wife, Aurelia, and their three daughters are trying to start anew in Bolivia.

Affections, Rodrigo Hasbún's second novel, is told in stylistically varied chapters narrated by a half-dozen characters, several of whom-the Ertls among them-are based on real-life figures. Though the book's medley of voices begets a couple of jarring transitions, it provides Hasbún with a host of angles from which to examine broad societal shifts and brief, intimate moments in the lives of his ensemble cast.

As the story starts, it's the mid-1950s and Hans has decided to make a documentary about his search for a fabled Incan paradise. Hans, in Hasbún's telling, is uncompromising, and his first expedition divides the Ertls into distinct factions. …

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