Bel Canto : Chapter 10

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Mr. Hosokawa now goes to Roxane’s room every night. He knows the way by himself. He is completely in love with Roxane and thinks it a miracle that such a thing can be happening. Gen and Carmen continue to meet in the china closet each night. They have a rule: two hours of study before they make love. But they never manage to keep to it, even when it is reduced to one hour. Eventually they reverse the rule: love-making first, studying afterwards.

The hostages are now regularly allowed outside. More of the hostages have taken up running, and there are also soccer games, sometimes including games in which the terrorists play the hostages. The terrorists, being younger and in better shape, usually win.

But Messner is in possession of darker facts. He thinks he hears the earth shaking, and he knows that the government is digging a tunnel underneath the house. He says to Gen that the terrorists must be talked into surrendering that very day. But Gen says there is no chance of that. Messner tells the generals, who are watching the soccer game outside, that it is time to talk about negotiations. Hector and Alfredo are not interested, but Benjamin agrees. As he and Messner go inside to talk, they pass Roxane, who is instructing Cesar in the art of singing. Cesar sings an aria from an opera by Bellini, to general applause.

Messner tells Benjamin that he will not be coming again, since the government says it has put enough effort into negotiations. He urges them to surrender that same day. The government will not meet any of their demands. Benjamin refuses.

Messner hints to Gen that an end to the standoff may be imminent. Gen does not want to have to give up Carmen. He just wants to forget the impossible situation they are in and go on loving her.

Cesar continues to sing under Roxane’s tutelage and starts to find his own voice. He no longer sounds as if he is imitating Roxane. Whenever he finishes a song he is greeted with riotous applause, from hostages and terrorists alike. Roxane sings another aria, and then all except Mr. Hosokawa and Cesar go outside to play soccer or just sit on the grass.

Government troops then storm the house. Cesar is the first to be shot and killed. They know exactly what they are doing and who they are looking for. All the terrorists are shot dead. Mr. Hosokawa is killed trying to protect Carmen. They are shot by the same bullet.



Just when the situation seems to have become almost impossibly idyllic, with two romances ongoing, Cesar singing brilliantly, and even soccer games played between hostages and captors, the inevitable end comes. The terrorists are presented as being inflexible and obtuse, not realizing that Messneris trying to tell them it is in their interests to surrender immediately. It is almost as it they no longer care, or have lost touch with the reality of the situation. Although the hostages have come to know a different side to the younger terrorists, especially Carmen, Beatriz, Ishmael, and Cesar, the government has not. The government regards them simply as terrorists who must be killed in order to end the long standoff.  The end is shocking but it is not unexpected. In fact, the author told her readers in the first chapter that the kidnapping would end violently and the terrorists would die.



In Lucca, in Tuscany, Italy, in May, Gen and Roxane are married. Simon Thibault and his wife Edith act as witnesses. They chose this location because Lucca was the birthplace of Puccini, the opera composer. After the ceremony, the two men go off in search of a bar where they can all have a celebratory drink. The couple plans to live in Milan. Gen says he does not miss Japan and his work is now mostly translating books. He thinks all opera singers should live in Italy. He also wonders why the newspapers reported that fifty-nine men and one woman were in the long hostage standoff. Beatriz and Carmen, the two girls, were never mentioned. He has called the newspapers to make a correction, but they are not interested.

They locate a bar and make their way back to the women. Simon is certain that Gen and Roxane have married for love, both for each other and all the others they had known, which clearly includes Carmen and Mr. Hosokawa.



The Epilogue may come as a surprise to the reader. Gen was one of the few men in the vice presidential house who did not fall in love with Roxane. However, each of them has lost someone they did indeed love, so they must have found themselves bound together in a kind of mutual sorrow that developed into love. After all, they did share a remarkable experience that must have created a bond between them. Also, it seems that Gen, the man who is the master of language—at least as regards comprehension and translation—and Roxane, the mistress of song, represent in some way the triumph of art and civilization over the violence of the situation they were involved in.

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