The Painter of Battles is a series of vignettes out of the life of former warzone photojournalist Andres Faulques, who has retired into solitude to paint a massive mural of warfare on the interior wall of the old watchtower that he currently inhabits. He has no delusions of being a great painter, but does have an overwhelming need to depict, in one great circular image, all the horrors and evils he has observed in thirty years behind the camera lens. And then, one day, the subject of one of his photos appears at the tower, introduces himself, and announces that he has come to kill Faulques, the man responsible for taking a famous photograph that ended up destroying all he had to live for.
The book flicks back and forth from conversations between Faulques and his would-be killer to vignettes from Faulques' own past and assignments, describing, bit-by-bit, the pieces of a life that are now being represented in pigment on plaster ... examining why war happens and why humans behave the way they do.
I suspect there's more than a hint of the autobiographical here ... Pérez-Reverte was a war journalist before retiring to fulltime fiction writing and his own experiences give depth to Faulques' memories and pain and guilt. An added dimension is the use of famed real photos contributing to the painter's vision ... if you read this book, it's worth taking a moment to visit <a href="http://perso.wanadoo.es/pintordebatallas/FOTOS/FOTOS.htm>this site</a>, which collects some of the photographs described in the book (page numbers and quotes are from the Spanish edition) Yes, by all means read it ... 'tis darker than the Alatriste works, but it supplements them in a strange way, simply because the atrocities of humans (war is simply an excuse, not a cause or reason) remain the same.