Exploring the shadows: Local Honduran author publishes debut novel
The Honduran-born and Philly-based author, Allan Fajardo, talked to AL DÍA about his recently published novel that reveals the history of Honduras and the experience of being an immigrant.
It was a snapshot engraved on his memory of a scene that appeared on the television set he was watching in his house in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.
The image consisted of a body of a man, drilled with bullets, lying in his car, his chauffeur also dead. A bloody Bible at his side. A vague consciousness, like a mist, that that was someone who had been important - and that he had been killed for a reason.
After many years, living in different countries and becoming a “citizen of the world,” Fajardo found a space in which he could unburden himself of this image — a space to create a permanent structure in which he could elaborate on it, so it would be not just a photo from fleeting news headlines, but rather a complete story, with all of the context of what happened before and after that moment. He wanted to bring to life that mysterious man, who for decades had been a personal ghost of sorts for Fajardo.
It was in 1989 or 1990 that Fajardo saw the news story that inspired him to write the chronicle of General Arriaga, one of the main characters in “Detrás de las sombras.” The assassinated man was a member of the army who had headed an elite squadron in the Honduran military which “disappeared” many people who did not agree ideologically with the Honduran government. He had fled to the United States and created another life there, but was killed when he returned to his country years later.
With this character and others, in a book that changes in setting from Honduras to the life of an immigrant in the United States, Fajardo constructs a revealing portrait that sheds light on some of the darkest episodes of the history of his native country, and the constant presence of the United States in those events.
The novel, “Detras de las sombras” — published two months ago by Casasola Editores, a publishing house focused on Central American authors — begins in the 80s, in Honduras, Fajardo told us in a recent visit to AL DÍA.
Fajardo explained that Honduras, as the “backyard” of Washington in the region, suffered much violence in this time period at the hands of the right-wing government and the armed forces, a great portion of which were trained by the U.S. military.
“I always thought, there’s a story. There’s a potential to tell about these things, everything that happened, because there were also disappearances in Honduras, people were tortured, disappeared,” Fajardo said.
The author now lives in Philadelphia, where he teaches Spanish and does translation and interpretation work. The city itself grew to have an important place in his novel, and serves as the setting for the characters that Fajardo says represent what it means to be an immigrant.
“The story happens in Honduras in the 80s, but I also play with the times, and I bring the story towards the present, towards the reality that we are living right now,” Fajardo said.
He explained that he wanted to intertwine the lives of the characters and the eras of both contexts to reflect the reality: that the U.S. has been directly related to the domestic affairs of countries in Central America, and that the effects of those past events continue to have an impact on both countries in current times.
But his novel is not strictly “political,” insisted Fajardo, who says that, ultimately, his book should be an escape that is simply a good story that draws the reader in, transporting them to another world.
“I wanted to tell a story, and I wanted to represent more than anything the human part, right, as in the fears, the emotions, that all of us as human beings have — and that General Arriaga is not an exception, because he was, or is, human.”
You can find “Detrás de las sombras” online at Casasola Editores.