Project Description

The Vision of Elena Silves, 1989 (Somerset Maugham Award, Betty Trask Award)

In the Amazon city of Belén, in the heart of the Peruvian jungle, three old men sit on a bench. They sit in the square every day under the hot sun, remembering the women they loved and the world when it was a better place. One day a woman hurries past their bench whom all have reason to remember – Elena Silves, the girl with eyes as blue as the sky who once saw a vision and has been incarcerated by the Church authorities in a convent high in the Andes ever since. But the old men remember something else. They remember that Elena had been in love at the time with Gabriel, a student revolutionary who became the most wanted man in Belén.

I cannot think of any other foreign writer who has entered into the labyrinth of the politics of my country and acquitted himself so well
Mario Vargas Llosa
Written with precision, clarity and rare beauty… Alongside Salman Rushdie and the late Bruce Chatwin, Shakespeare now joins the ranks of the New Exotics school
Robert Carver, New Statesman
A remarkable debut… A story of love and insurrection brilliantly told…One of the best books about the continent written by an outsider
Sunday Times
An Englishman’s novel of magic realism, flavoured with the more traditional English spices such as thriller and tourchsong, and a touch of Anglo-Saxon irony… A fine literary novel, combining several traditions and genres of fiction
The Times
A novel of action in the best tradition of Conrad and Greene… Love, violence, revolution and death – a denouement that is unexpected, shocking and brilliantly conceived… I closed the novel with both satisfaction and regret
Literary Review
The Vision of Elena Silves is a terrific novel
John Sutherland, London Review of Books