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Merino rescues from oblivion the great escape of prisoners in Pamplona with his work ‘Balas y violines’

Although he is mainly dedicated to historical genre, in the novels of the writer Vladimir Merino Barrera we will not find great epics or biographies of renowned historical figures, as he is firmly convinced that “history is tremendously unfair with ordinary characters, who in the end are the ones who have suffered or enjoyed it ”. He prefers, therefore, to center hisnarrative around those who reflect the feelings of the citizenry.

Perhaps this is the secret of the attraction that his works emanate, which allow the reader to experience a historical moment or another, through the gaze of someone similar to us, of a character who could be an ancestor of ours, or a neighbor of yesteryear of our city.

This afternoon, at7:30 p.m., at the House of Culture he will present two of his new books, a doublet motivated by the restrictions of the pandemic because he had scheduled one of the appointments just when the sanitary regulations began to avoid infections.

With Balas y violines, Merino immerses readers in a exciting story, that brilliantly connects with Benalmádena, and that is the fruit –like all his historical novels- of an arduous investigation and sensitive data purification, which promote that human feelings, passions and most personal experiences, are not lost in a sea of ​​data, historical dates and milestones.

Balas y violines narrates The Great Escape – a film directed by John Sturges with Steve McQueen-, but in the Spanish way.  The author emphasizes that it is the novel that “has been the most difficult for me to write”. And it is that,   the reader will be able to enter three different temporal threads: the present, the end of the dictatorship, and the civil war.

Balas y violines begins and ends in Benalmádena, but throughout its pages the reader will travel to the Basque Country and Navarra, a journey that is vital in order to understand the interesting story that Merino shares in this work.

But, what could happen to a Benalmadense at that time and in different geographical settings so disparate? And above all, what does the movie The Great Escape have to do with Benalmádena? The answers are astonishingly simple as the plot of Bullets and Violins is exciting.

In World War II, the Nazis created a labor concentration camp in Poland for prisoners of the war, especially American and British pilots. From there, according to Merino, 75 prisoners escaped, of whom they killed about 50. These were the historical events that, in addition to starring in an Australian novel, were captured on the big screen through The Great Escape.

Here in Spain, specifically in Pamplona, ​​there was a military fort, under Franco’s command, dedicated to prisoners, in which more than 2,000 people were deprived of liberty. On May 22, 1938, 795 prisoners escaped from there, many of them from Malaga and, of course, from Benalmádena, who desperately tried to reach France.

“Only three arrived in France,” explains Merino, who says that the others “while they were arrested on the way, they were shot – they killed 205 – who they buried so as not to give a bad image in the foreign press.”  This news was only collected in a brief article published by The Times, that the writer collects in his book. Why has the history of these Spanish prisoners not transcended when a similar one, and with a lesser scope, has been the inspiration for novels and cinematographic films?

Merino has managed to recover numerous documentation on this event, including, for example, the  list of prisoners from Málaga in Pamplona.

Perhaps the most admirable key of Balas y Violines it is how its author spins the story of this escape of prisoners in Pamplona with the city of Benalmádena. Without giving too many clues to not gutthe novel, we’ll just uncover that the the local fund of the Arroyo de la Miel Public Library has a lot to do with the real story told in his novel by Merino, who found among the treasures that this agora of knowledge guards, documentation on a Benalmadense known as Manqueli, who was one of the prisoners, as well as different journalistic reviews of the time and documentation on many other Malaga prisoners who died while trying to escape from that military fort.

While Merino narrates the ins and outs of this historical event, he takes the opportunity to reveal  to the reader facts, sometimes unknown to most, such as the execution of the mayor of Benalmádena, José Valderrama, during the Civil War. A murder full of incredible anecdotes, coincidences and unexpected twists,  based on a firm documentary support that highlights the veracity of the events narrated by Merino and that brings a piece of their history to the people of Benalmadena.

In the works of Vladimir Merino the reader will be able to learn history, events that happened in the past but through real experiences, from the a more human prism, from the eyes of those who were neighbors of our ancestors, of people whose name has not jumped into the history books who study in schools, but who were the protagonists of what happened, and whose experiences, thanks to the historical rescue that Merino makes in his novels, come to light to be known with the respect and dignity they deserve. 

Even the very title of Balas y Violines hides behind a story with its own name, that of a musician whose striking experience you can discover in the pages of this exceptional work.

Gender violence and immigration, in La Colombiana

La Colombiana is the only novel written by Merino that is not of a historical genre but it does have much of the current reality in society. In this book, Merino delves into sensitive issues such as immigration or gender violence.

It puts readers in the shoes of immigrant women. In this book, the dramas and obstacles encountered along the way are exposed by many of the women who travel to Spain in search of a better future for their families and who go, sometimes through a real hell, separated for years of their loved ones and their children, with the sole objective of sending their relatives money so that they can survive in their country of origin.

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