Las vidas ajenas

Las vidas ajenas / Other People’s Lives

Novel , 2005

Espasa Calpe

Pages: 281

La vidas ajenas (Other People’s Lives) awarded the prestigious Premio Primavera 2005, by a jury which included Ana María Matute and Antonio Soler. 

Lebeaux is a Belgian banker/entrepreneur whose family fortune was made by his great-grandfather in the Congo, where many of his global businesses (including diamond-trading) are still rooted. He is married to Sophie, a Mexican girl 40 years younger than him and 10 years younger than his daughter, Charlotte ). His lawyer, Degand, acts as his Mr Fixit. One day Lebeaux receives a photocopy of a photo of his great-grandfather in a politically compromising position, together with a demand for EUR500,000. Claude and Marlene are a couple. Claude is a man with a van and Daniel is his university-educated assistant. They clear dead people’s houses for a living. They are the ones blackmailing Lebeaux. Kasongo is an acquaintance from a local bar, a refugee from Zaire, who occasionally deals in drugs. Daniel asks Kasongo to procure him a gun (borrowing EUR500 from his sister Chantal to pay for it). Chantal is a single mother with a young daughter who hates school, struggling to make ends meet on her pay as a waitress. She splits with her machista Spanish boyfriend and takes up with a taxi-driver (Rashid from Algeria) who is going through the throes of a divorce.

As the novel moves towards its violent dénouement, Ovejero skillfully manages the development and interplay of these characters from opposite extremes of society, as well as exploring the continuing exploitation of third world populations through the murky commercial practices of traders from the worlds’ richest countries.