Acclaimed author Arturo Perez-Reverte has earned a distinguished reputation as a master of the literary thriller with his international bestsellers The Club Dumas and The Queen of the South. Now, in this haunting new work, Perez-Reverte has written his most accomplished novel to date. The Painter of Battles is a captivating tale of love, war, art, and revenge.
Andres Faulques, a world-renowned war photographer, has retired to a life of solitude on the Spanish coast. On the walls of a tower overlooking the sea, he spends his days painting a huge mural that pays homage to history's classic works of war art and that incorporates a lifetime of disturbing images.
One night, an unexpected visitor arrives at Faulques' door and challenges the painter to remember him. As Faulques struggles to recall the face, the man explains that he was the subject of an iconic photo taken by Faulques in a war zone years ago. "And why have you come looking for me?" asks Faulques. The stranger answers, "Because I'm going to kill you."
This story transports Faulques to the time when he crossed continents to capture conflicts on film with his lover, Olvido, at his side. Until she walked into his life, Faulques muses, he had believed he would survive both war and women.
As the tense dialogue between Faulques and his visitor continues, the stakes grow ever higher. What they are grappling with quickly proves to be not just Faulques' fate but the very nature of human love and cruelty itself.
Arturo Perez-Reverte perfectly balances the shadows of the heart with the chaos of war in this stunning composition on morality. Superb and tautly written, The Painter of Battles is a deeply affecting novel about life and art.
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January 07, 2008
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Excerpt from The Painter of Battles by Arturo Perez-Reverte
He swam one hundred and fifty strokes out to sea and the same number back, as he did each morning, until he felt the round pebbles of the shore beneath his feet. He dried himself, using the towel he'd hung on a tree trunk that had been swept in by the sea, put on his shirt and sneakers, and went up the narrow path leading from the cove to the watchtower. There he made coffee and began, mixing blues and grays that would lend his work the proper atmosphere. During the night--each night he slept less and less, and that only a restless dozing--he had decided that cold tones would be needed to delineate the melancholy line of the horizon, where a veiled light outlined the silhouettes of warriors walking beside the sea. Those tones would envelop them in reflections from the waves washing onto the beach that he had spent four days creating with light touches of Titian white, applied pure. So in a glass jar he mixed white, blue, and a minimal amount of natural sienna, until they were transformed into a luminous blue. Then he daubed some of the paint on the oven tray he used as a palette, dirtied the mixture with a little yellow, and worked without stopping the rest of the morning. Finally he clamped the handle of the brush between his teeth and stepped back to judge the effect. Sky and sea were now harmoniously combined in the mural that circled the interior of the tower, and although there was still a lot to be done, the horizon was now a smooth, slightly hazy line that accentuated the loneliness of the men--dark strokes splashed with metallic sparks--dispersed and moving away beneath the rain.
He rinsed the brushes with soap and water and set them to dry. From the foot of the cliff below came the sound of the motors and music of the tourist boat that ran along the coast every day at the same hour. With no need to look, Andr�s Faulques knew that it was one o'clock. He heard the usual woman's voice, amplified by the loudspeaker system, and it seemed even stronger and clearer when the boat drew even with the inlet, for then the sound reached the tower with no obstacle other than the few pines and bushes that despite erosion and slides were still clinging to the cliff face.
This place is known as Cala del Arr�ez. It was once the refuge of Berber pirates. Up there on the top of the cliff you can see an old watchtower that was constructed at the beginning of the eighteenth century as a part of the coastal defense, with the specific purpose of warning nearby villages of Saracen incursions . . .
It was the same voice every day: educated, with good diction. Faulques imagined the woman to be young; no doubt a local guide who accompanied the tourists on the three-hour tour the boat--a sixty-five-foot tender painted blue and white that docked in Puerto Umbr�a--made between Ahorcados Island and Cabo Malo. In the last two months, from atop the cliff, Faulques had watched it pass, its deck filled with people armed with film and video cameras as summertime music thundered over the loudspeakers, so loud that the interruptions of the woman's voice came as a relief.
A well-known painter lives in that tower, which stood abandoned for a long time, and he is embellishing the entire interior wall with a large mural. Unfortunately, it is private property and no visitors are allowed . . .
This time the woman was speaking Spanish, but on other occasions it might be English, Italian, or German. Only when the tickets were bought with francs--four or five times that summer--did a masculine voice relieve her, in French. At any rate, Faulques thought, the season was almost over; with every trip there were fewer tourists on board the tender, and soon those daily visits would become weekly, until they were interrupted by the harsh gray mistrals that blew in the winter, funneling in through the straits called Bocas de Poniente, darkening sea and sky.