ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
A 30-year-old novel has just been translated to English but keeps its Spanish name, "Muerte En Una Estrella." The author is Sergio Elizondo, and the translators are Rosaura Sanchez and Beatrice Pita. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it crackles.
ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Elizondo finds a story written decades ago, but still fresh, in incidents from the Chicano civil rights movement of the 1960s and '70s. Two teenage Texans, Oscar Balboa, 16, and Valentine Rodriguez, 19, on furlough from a nearby vocational training camp, take a walk through the streets of Austin. They're decked out, we hear, in clean and pressed white shirts, blue pants, black shoes, slicked black hair, big black shiny eyes and golden brown skin. And out of their mouths come more Spanish than English. Before their day ends, they lie dying on the grass, victims of police violence. The narrator tells and sometimes sings their story, accompanying himself on a metaphorical guitar in a dark but sometimes whimsical fashion, like some ancient muse who's discovered he's been born brown and without equality in Austin on the wrong side of town. In fact, he tells us the entire barrio was an instrument - a guitar - each home a concert - each voice a song. The story moves along in short chapters like arias from a number of points of view - from the narrator - from policemen - from the families of the boys. But mainly, we hear the hopes - thoughts about love, about community and a future the boys will never see in the dramatic laments of the two victims. We all know - Oscar says, joining in the music before he dies - that love has a pull stronger than that of a hundred tractors. So does this story - this musically inclined story - this rowdy story - this beautifully pathetic story that pulls us along through dreams, hopes, horror and lament in celebration of two ordinary and at the same time heroic lives.
SIEGEL: The book is "Muerte En Una Estrella" written by Sergio Elizondo and translated by Rosaura Sanchez and Beatrice Pita. Alan Cheuse had our review. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.