Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism

Peter Mountford
A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism

Mariner Books, 2011

November 2005. Gabriel de Boya, half-Russian, half-Chilean, but educated as American, arrived in La Paz, Bolivia's de facto capital, as freelancer journalist. In fact, Gabriel is working on unscrupulous hedge fund Calloway. Trip to Bolivia is the first task for Gabriel. Stimulated by the $20,000 monthly salary, Gabriel, without giving himself away, must ferret out insider information for Calloway, thanks to which fund will be able to make the necessary transactions, leading to the enrichment of the company. Calloway actively expands in Latin America, looking for any loopholes. Bolivia, with its rich oil and gas reserves, is in the presidential election. The future of the country's industry will depend on the personality of the president.

In the first days in Bolivia Gabriel meets with the 40-year old journalist Fiona, covering the political life of South America for the Wall Street Journal. Acquaintance quickly turns into a sex relationship. However, neither Gabriel nor Fiona do not bind themselves to any promises or declarations.
Gabriel has accidentally got this job. After graduation he worked as a journalist in business magazines, had the experience. He sent resume - and got a positive response. Gabriel realizes that if he does not pass the first test, he will be fired immediately after his return to New York. Not having some sort of attraction to money, but having lived in poverty, our hero wants to work for Calloway for a few years, accumulating millions of dollars, then to once and for ever forget about financial unrest.

This is a strong debut novel with seemingly not too fresh topic, "What has more power, the money or feeling?", but topic really is fresh. Money there has scale, they’re not domestic. There are millions at stake there, plus the stability of the state's economy.

Mountford makes a call to the reader with his main character. Gabriel is a young man, not too experienced; not a predator, greedy for millions; not a villain, ready for any wickedness; nor schemer. He is a home boy, beloved by his mother and raised in kindness and love. Gabriel is just a little man. Fragile cog of the capitalist system. He wants to get rich, but not in order to become rich and enjoy the incredible luxury. He had suffered in his time. He feels the Chilean blood in his veins, blood mixed with the poor. And this feeling of inferiority does not leave him. Getting involved in big financial game, he still does not realize what transformation can happen to him. Maybe he is aware of it - but he did not stop. And his manipulation by rumors leads to quite unexpected results.

The author pumpes the suspence, and we expect that Gabriel is about to make a mistake. He will be disclosed, he will fail, and he’s waited for the shame and oblivion.

And he makes mistakes, but only in the other way: the way of the senses. He, long before fraud, crossed the line that can not be crossed, and did what you must not do. He knew where it all might lead. And now Gabriel is doomed to loneliness.

Mountford makes an experiment on the reader: can a reader feel for Gabriel, sympathize with him? Who is the hero, the lost souls or dark genius, amoral and descended? The reader, of course, will decide himself.

Author of the book does not provide answers to complex questions posed in the book. Does a lot of money exclude love? How far is a man willing to go to become a millionaire? What causes a person to money, genetic predisposition or education? Human being is an intricate structure. And the economy is arranged no less difficult.

Mountford not only got under the skin of capitalism, but also managed to build a tight plot that spans only a few weeks. Transformation of Gabriel performs in a short time. All the characters are in place, every detail helps to reveal a character. Stylistically, the book reminded me of «Snowdrops» by A.D. Miller (there are similarities in composition as well).

It’s a great book about economy and human feelings.

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