Books: I listened to the audiobook “The Painter of Battles” by Arturo Perez-Reverte. From the NY Times review (here):
…. Yet Arturo Pérez-Reverte — a Spaniard who writes intellectual thrillers and historical novels about such subjects as fencing and musketeers — proposes to scale these heights. In his latest novel to appear in English (translated by Margaret Sayers Peden), a contemporary war photographer exchanges his Nikon for a paintbrush as he energetically embarks on a pictorial representation of suffering, all “26 centuries of the iconography of war,” inspired by everything from Greek vases to Diego Rivera’s murals and every minor Italian master in between. Pérez-Reverte is also drawing on personal experience: before becoming a best-selling novelist, he was a journalist covering conflicts in Lebanon, Bosnia, Libya and elsewhere.
The hero of “The Painter of Battles,” Andrés Faulques, lives in a 300-year-old tower on the Spanish coast. A war photographer for 30 years, he’s been everywhere: “Cyprus, Vietnam, Lebanon, Cambodia, Eritrea, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique, Iraq, the Balkans.” Why did he give up his career to paint a mural on the walls of his tower? Because he couldn’t find, through the lens, “the definitive image; the both fleeting and eternal moment that would explain all things,” “the hidden rule that made order out of the implacable geometry of chaos.”
Faulques’s foil is a Croatian soldier, Ivo Markovic, who shows up at the tower bearing a photograph of himself that Faulques took in 1991 just before the battle of Vukovar in the former Yugoslavia. The image was on the cover of many magazines and made Markovic famous. It also ruined his life: by the end of the second chapter, he has let Faulques know he intends to kill him.
Yet Markovic repeatedly puts off the murder. “I can’t just kill you,” he explains. “I need for us to talk first; I need to know you better, to be sure that you realize certain things. I want you to learn and understand. ... After that, I’ll be able to kill you.” Faulques, popping mysterious tablets and occasionally grabbing his side in pain, seems quite ill. He also seems not entirely worried about the threat, although he checks to make sure his shotgun is still in working order…..