Review / “Comanche Territory” (1994) by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Arturo Pérez-Reverte, a world famous Spanish author, started writing in 1986 without much success. At that time he was a great reporter, covering the various conflicts, wars, guerrillas, that tore the world from 1973 to 1994, for twelve years for the Pueblo newspaper, then for nine years for TVE, the Spanish television. Cyprus, Lebanon, Eritrea, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chad, Libya, Sudan, Mozambique, Angola; so many stages of his daily life that marked him so much. His book review. comanche territorypublished in March 2022 by Les Belles Lettres.

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comanche territory : farewell to arms

Between 1992 and 1994, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro were his last destinations. born there comanche Territory, finally published, for the first time, by Les Belles Lettres, in their War Memories collection. At forty-three, he is a royal farewell to armsthe abandonment of a tribe, which is thrown hot Arturo Perez-Reverte in the heart of the Balkans, where Bosnian Muslims and Serbs, then Croats, finally Serbs and Croats, are facing each other, not to mention the presence of Montenegrin troops. The implosion of the former Yugoslavia came in pain, pain, horrors. It is time for memories, lost friends, anecdotes, and reflection on journalistic practices, the evolution of the profession upset by technological revolutions.

In Bijelo Polje, Montenegro, two TVE journalists wait near a mined bridge. Márquez, the cameraman, obsessed with recording the disintegration of a bridge, which he never managed to do, finally wants to do it. With Barlés, his friend, the double of Arturo Pérez-Reverte, a reporter, they immerse themselves at times in the past, they exchange a lot. in professional jargon comanche territory it means “…the place where instinct tells you: stop the car and turn around. » Some cross this line, others turn back. In this very autobiographical story, the literary inventions fit perfectly into the very fluid and very realistic text.

Mark, tough among toughs, paraplegic for six months in Eritrea, back from hell, lame for fifteen years. With Barlés they share “a certain gruff, introverted and acrid sense of humor”. Barlés’s memory is assailed by former reporters who did Algeria, Katanga, Biafra. Regardless of today or deceased, they continue to be referents for the new generations. The portraits are numerous, distilled in full action or at rest. It is a beautiful tribute that Barlés pays them, at the time of the telex, of a crackling Underwood, where the notion of time did not have the same value. Strong personalities like Oriana Fallaci, Corinne Dufka, receive a fair tribute.

Time to settle accounts with entertainment journalism

In each conflict, each reporter had his favorite hotel, a true headquarters, where these professionals, women and men, drowned in champagne, whiskey, some of them taking illicit substances to better survive. “As cracked as they all were”, above all, they were drugged with risk, doped with adrenaline. At his side swarm, interpreters, soldiers, traffickers, prostitutes, spies, informers. The shadow of the disappeared companions, still alive in them, is permanent. Forty-eight of them lost their lives in the former Yugoslavia, under shells, bullets, mortar fire, mines, bombs. Death is merciless hitting a rookie as soon as he arrives at the airport in his taxi, Ted Stanford in Cyprus when he urinates in a mine, as shown by the lucky provocateurs on Sniper Avenue in Sarajevo.

for Barles it’s time to settle accounts with entertainment journalismreporters capable of taking foolish risks in comanche territoryor not, for a photo that will go around the world, will bring fame and money. It also criticizes these lonely, selfish castaways, incapable of being happy in dilapidated families, often divorced. Alone in retirement, they repeat their memories. no respect for “the Japanese”, present on the ground for a simple photo but far from the front line, be they parliamentarians, members of ministries in “self-indulgent smiles”, “busy journalists and universal braggarts”, who, once back, give conferences, organize solidarity concerts, dare to write books about the causes of the conflict. No more esteem for these high-ranking military men, dressed to the nines, during control missions, nor for the leather rings in the corridors of TV.

very personal booklike no other, comanche territory in no way idealizes the profession of a reporter, describing the war in all its brutality, such as it is, “…businesses of merchants and generals…”. A story captivating, moving, where the rage explodes Arturo Perez-Reverte who has lost faith, because “From the age of forty, in this profession, you become devilishly old”. Excellent journalist, he became a great novelist.

More information :

  • comanche territory, Arturo Perez-ReverteLes Belles Lettres, March 2022, 120 pages, €17
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