The Assignment

Per Wahloo’s The Assignment should be required reading for anyone trying to expand their company to another. In The Assignment, Manuel Ortega, a government official, takes over as Provincial Resident of some unknown South American country after his predecessor is openly assassinated. In trying to discover this new land filled with government officials and wealth, he is surrounded by unknown, indigenous workers who can barely live. The warfare between the haves and the have-nots has been an on going battle to get what little resources out of the ground while they can. The new Provincial Resident’s role is not very clear and his new office is empty of paperwork or any instructions on what to do.

His new assistant and part-time lover, Danica Rodriguez, begins to open Manuel’s eyes to the tortuous conditions that exist for the original occupants of this unknown land. When a reservoir is emptied due to insurgency, water, a precious resource in this hot climate, is trucked in, from who knows where, and somehow priority is given to the lawns of the wealthily versus the mouths of the poor.

When Manuel finds a Proclamation from his predecessor, he finds the strength to stand up for humanity. One line reads, “there has arisen a new concept of the citizen as an individual (human being). This point of view has not been applied in our province.” And I think so many times when capitalism escapes our first world boundaries, corporations, and even the individual, seems to forget that the people working in a far off land, making a measly salary, are indeed human beings. Worthy of thoughts and rights, just as we are. To think this was written in the 1960’s, well after what I consider to be a colonial period of time, and yet 50 years later we hear about factories collapsing and killing hundreds of workers. Or the work schedule of someone who built my computer causing such extreme stress that suicide is a common occurrence in the dorm like structures that house the workers for the convenience of the company and the inconvenience of family.

This was a fantastic politically charged novel. I wasn’t expecting something so intense from the co-author of the Martin Beck series, which I love. The Martin Beck series dives into social difficulties in Sweden and closer to home, while in The Assignment breaks through a specific society and drives home the evils of colonialism. Great read!

Read May 2014

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