Thanks to Euro Crime and The Game's Afoot, I am delighted to learn that Guillermo Orsi has won the 2010 Hammett prize for his novel Ciudad Santa (Holy City). Not yet published in English, but from the publisher's website (courtesy of the mad Google translate):
"A politician is executed in the light of day in a slum on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. A beauty queen seeks help from a lawyer who has been widowed twice shot. A cruise of tourists stranded in the muddy River Plate: the food is served to a band of kidnappers. Among the tourists, a Colombian drug baron and her lover are the main attraction.
A collector of human heads meantime reveals two policemen locked in a duel that will have little to do with the law and even with their loyalties and deceptions.Buenos Aires, as a canoe full of fugitives from successive disasters, browsing aimlessly through a sea without beaches or horizons.This drift is the raw material with which Guillermo Orsi builds its Holy City, seductive, violent …shocking.
With a cast of characters to remember,Holy City is the absorbing and breathtaking novels of a country that, when everything seems to have been said and even though it pretends obvious silence, speaking through their dead."
Sounds brilliant! (Read a more sanely put account of the book at Reuters website.) One assumes the translation into English, when it happens, will be a bit more subtle.
Although Ciudad Santa has not yet been translated, I recently read another book by this author, No-one Loves a Policeman, translated by Nick Caistor (more elegantly than the above, I have to say!), publisher Maclehose Press/Quercus. I very much liked this book, stating in my review:
"The novel contains a wonderful mix of characters (including the cat) who all have their own ways of dealing with the misery and cruelty all around them. The stories of poverty in the hospitals and the corruption of the government and police are particularly well-integrated in the plot of this exciting, absorbing book. The author is a journalist, and (unsurprisingly) a pretty cynical one, infusing his tales of tragedy with in-depth knowledge of current affairs but also sufficient humour and feeling that one is carried along to the end. The translation of the novel is masterly, in that the ‘running commentary’ that provides the framework for the plot, and that eventually merges into it, almost unconsciously gives the reader a vivid sense of experiencing events alongside the characters."
If Ciudad Santa is as good as No-one Loves a Policeman, it will be very good indeed. I hope that those of us who have to rely on translations for non-English-language books won't have too long to wait.