Vltchek may have revived a difficult genre—political fiction
by Michael Schiffmann
With his work Point of No Return, the journalist, documentary filmmaker and author of numerous books on the repercussions of Western imperialism Andre Vltchek engages in a risk that has become rare these days, namely, to write an explicitly political novel. And what is more, he succeeds in doing so in a very impressive way.
On the canvas of a strongly autobiographical background, Vltchek develops the arresting story of a politically committed war reporter, his alter ego Karel, a man coming from Czechia in Eastern Europe but living in exile in Latin America and frantically traveling the continents “to learn, to see, and to write,” always in the attempt to make the terrors and revolting conditions experienced in the process public and to contribute to over due change thereby.
The free-floating existence of a war correspondence who has no firm roots anywhere, who is here today and there tomorrow and who doesn’t only market the suffering and pain observed in the process, but also regularly exchanges it for the suffering of other victims of course in- vites cynicism, and this cynicism is lurking in the background of even Karel:
There was no particular place on earth where I desired to live. […] I had floated with no anchor, moving from place to place, free from all responsibilities except one – to be a witness to the insanity that was swallowing the world – to be a storyteller, to be where essential things were happening: to be myself.
The story plays out in Peru, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Indonesia, and in cities such as Lima, Paris, New York, and Tokyo, which can be seen a reflection of the restless life of Vltchek himself who, according to himself, has traveled more than 150 of the 200 countries of the earth. But before long, we recognize how, behind the permanent haste, the continuous change of location, there are evident deep convictions of the protagonist, a deep relation to and a deep sympathy for the exploited, oppressed, and gagged majority of the world population with whom his job brings him into permanent contact.
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