Marc Balcells reviews Erik el Belga's Por amor al arte. Memorias del ladrón más famoso del mundo (Editorial Planeta 2012) in the Spring 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
We criminologists teach a particular theory: neutralization techniques, named by its authors, Matza and Sykes. In a nutshell, the theory states that committing crimes is illogical, and offenders need to rationalize it. Analyzing the perpetrator's discourse, from the perspective of this theory, will pour forth a chain of excuses/rationalizations that convert his or her actions into something rational and logical: something he can live with.
This was the recurring theoretical framework that came to my mind while reading the life of art thief Erik el Belga, the nickname behind René Alphonse Ghislain Vanden Berghe, a Belgian citizen, long established in the south of Spain who, alongside his wife, has published his memories, in Spanish.
To date this book has not been translated, so the practical question for the potential reader is: should he or she invest his or her time in this text, if not well-versed in Cervantes' mother tongue? It depends. Of course, if one is interested in reading the memories of an art thief, it is, indeed worth turning to. But if not, I seriously think this is not a book to recommend, outside of those specifically interested in the subject. The first edition had no fewer than 683 pages, which makes the reading a quite daunting task.You may finish reading this review in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA Founder Noah Charney (available electronically and in print via subscription and Amazon.com). Associate Editor Marc Balcells (ARCA '11) is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.