The National Liberation Army, founded by Che Guevera in the mid-20th century, spread through and splintered Latin America, touching millions of individuals who wound up becoming revolutionaries or victims of the revolution. The Ertl clan is a microcosm of those caught up in the war, whether by choice or circumstance. They have arrived in Bolivia from Germany, where the father, Hans, was a photographer for Nazi propaganda. Now he is an explorer who films documentaries on Latin American forests, mountains, and sacred sites far from civilization. He’s searching for the lost Incan site of Paititi. The trip is a disaster, and Hans’ wife and three daughters are lost on their return home, although Hans, as usual, morphs into an adaptable businessman/farmer. There is no condemnation of Hans’ former life, which makes it even more ironic that his daughters wind up serving a cause against the aristocracy who use and abuse the common people.
Monika is an enigmatic, complex character. She becomes the “avenger” of Guevera, dreaded by those in and outside the revolution. Yet her travels and acts have a surrealistic quality, like a shell-shocked victim; her faith in the ideals of the rebellion of the poor is unflagging yet without emotional connection. Her sisters are drawn into her world despite their aversion to the troubles that are an inevitable aspect of being a revolutionary supporter. Childhood explorations of this family evolve into reluctant participation in the revolutionary fervor playing out in words and deeds throughout all of Latin America.
Affections leaves the reader with as many questions as answers regarding the characters’ German past and revolutionary present. This is remarkable, important historical fiction!