Óscar Núñez Olivas
© Ezequiel Becerra
Óscar Núñez Olivas was born in San José in 1955. For many years, he has worked as a correspondent for the Agence France-Presse for Central America. His novel El teatro circular (“The Circular Theatre”) was awarded both the Premio Latinoamericano de novela in 1996 and the Premio Nacional de Costa Rica in 1997.
In his fascinating new novel La guerra prometida (“The Promised War”), Núñez Olivas tells the story of two men who have marked the fate of Central America in the mid-19th century: the charismatic president of Costa Rica, Juan Rafael Mora, and the American mercenary, William Walker. Called upon by the Nicaraguan liberal party to help in their fight against the conservatives, Walker does not hesitate. His aim is to conquer all the countries of Central America and annex them to the USA. But Walker, who prefers the passion of his voluptuous mistress to fighting, has not reckoned with the strong resistance of the Costa Rican army, commanded by the president himself.
Artfully constructed, this entertaining and intelligent novel has all the ingredients of a bestseller: intriguing stories about politics, love and warfare in an important era of American history.
History is enthralling. Óscar Núñez Olivas proves it.
A great work that preserves for literary posterity the greatest feat of heroism of the Costa Rican people.
The novel we’ve been waiting for.
En clave de luna (“Cadence of the Moon”) tells of the crimes of a serial killer, who was known as el Psicópata ( the Psychopath) in the 1980s, spreading fear and terror amid Costa Rican society. A firm lead was not followed, for the suspect belonged to one of the most influential families of the country.
Against this background of sleaze and corruption, Núñez weaves his plot. The main characters are the young journalist Maricruz and the police investigator Gustavo who end up as a couple. Maricruz's boss is less fortunate. He falls in love with the married Lidia, of all people. While she manages to integrate her lover into her everyday life, he suffers from the thought of her waking next to the other man every morning. Disillusionment is what he is used to at work as well. Mr. Grey, the owner of the paper, demands a sensational scoop one day, to please the public, and compliant silence the next, so as not to upset the advertising clients or the backers from politics.
In the meantime, investigations are under way. Maricruz receives anonymous telephone calls, encounters a strange man in Panama, and finds herself in the circle of an eerie sect who worships the moon. Soon she realises she is on the wrong track and was only exploited to divert attention. Gustavo fares no better: His boss, a candidate for the next elections, impedes the progress of the investigations. Gustavo cannot but resign from office, as does Maricruz, who exercises her profession with ardour, but not unconditionally.
With a flawless concoction of seemingly grotesque exaggerations in the portrayal of situations or characters such as bad-tempered Grey, Núñez still avoids letting them descend into ridiculousness. Not explanations, but dialogues outline fields of conflict such as the entanglement of economy, politics, justice and the media. And finally, the reader is easily won over by a tongue-in-cheek anti-machismo, gripping suspense and a liberal portion of humour. An entertaining crime novel and a topical portrayal of Central American society.
La guerra prometida
Mexico City: Alfaguara 2015, 407 p.
English and German sample translation available
En clave de luna
San José, Costa Rica: Uruk 2004, 374 p.
(Spanish rights available, except for Costa Rica)
UK: Aflame 2007
Los gallos de San Esteban
Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Ed. Guaymuras 2000, 380 p.
El teatro circular
San José, Costa Rica: Ed. Universitaria Centroamericana (EDUCA) 1997, 270 p.