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Category Archive for 'Argentina'

Within a swirling time frame and several settings which change suddenly through unexpected flashbacks, Italian author Erri De Luca creates a character whose life breathes with subdued passion and the tragedy of sudden terror. Now fifty, the unnamed speaker is working as a gardener/landscaper on a large estate in Italy owned by Mimmo, a filmmaker, someone the speaker knew when they were youths in Turin. Leading a solitary life, the speaker is surprised one evening when an attractive younger woman flirts with him while she is eating lunch with another man at a tavern. After she’s gone, he plans what he might say if he were to see her again. He has had little social contact with other people in recent years, using his gardening skills and his connection with nature for his satisfaction – “caring more about it than about people.” For twenty years he lived in Argentina, participating in the “dirty war” there, “days filled with trouble, ruined by death that tears away clumps of us folks, stuffs thousands of the living, freshly plucked, into its sack.” As he tries to sort out his life, the reader learns of his marriage there, his traumas, and his wandering life since then, and as the speaker contemplates the meaning of his present condition, the novel works its way up to a grand climax and startling finale. Themes related to life and death, war and peace, fear and commitment, and responsibility and self-preservation combine to affect the conclusion. Erri De Luca has been described by Milan’s daily newspaper Corriere della Serra as “the only true first-rate writer that the new millennium has given us for now.”

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Among South American authors, Claudia Pineiro is one of my unabashed favorites, at least in part because the expectations she creates in her readers combine with her sense of irony and dark humor to deliver clever plot twists and sudden narrative shifts. The conclusions of her novels always leave me with a smile on my face – tricked again. Like her three previous novels which have been translated and released in English (by Bitter Lemon Press – see links below) this novel too, is full of surprises. Pineiro always provides depth to her work, vividly depicting the values of her society and the ethical conflicts which often haunt her main characters. Dishonesty and crime certainly play strong roles in her plots, but she is less concerned with depicting violence and gore than in illustrating the interplay of good and evil in her characters’ lives; she writes with a light tone, almost of self-mockery, not characteristics one usually associates with “crime writing.” Here, however, the author also introduces a dramatically altered narrative style, one which allows her to expand her themes and the vision of the world as seen by her characters. Pineiro, winner of the Pleyade Journalism Award for her past reporting, puts her many years of experience in the field to work as she develops the main characters, most of whom are associated with El Tribuno, the main newspaper in the area. The conclusion, always a surprise in Pineiro’s novels, has some special twists here, too, some of which may explain the narrative style.

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The film version of this novel won the Academy Award in 2010 for Best Foreign Film. Now the novel itself has been released in English, and it’s proving to be as popular as the film. Main character Benjamin Chapparo, a deputy clerk and chief administrator associated with the investigative courts in Buenos Aires, has just recently retired, and having more time than he knows what to do with, he decides to tell the story of his most compelling case, a murder from 1968 and its aftermath. Alternating between the present and the fraught circumstances of the late 1960s in Argentina, Chaparro lets the reader into his life, a life in which he bemoans his two divorces; his seeming inability to find true love; his commitment to justice at a time in which Argentina was experiencing turmoil from a succession of militaristic dictators; and his thirty-year, unrequited love for a married colleague who seems not to know he adores her. Sacheri’s observations about his characters, their motivations, and the circumstances in which they work or find themselves by accident are particularly astute, giving sociological and psychological explanations for many of the unusual scenes in which they find themselves. The conclusion is full of surprises.

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In this affecting and unusual metafictional novel, Patricio Pron describes his sudden return to Argentina in 2008, for the first time in eight years. Pron had left his home in El Trebol, about two hundred miles northwest of Buenos Aires, for Germany in his mid-twenties to pursue a literary career. He had not believed that a writer from a poor country and a poor neighborhood could become part of the imaginary republic of letters to which he aspired in New York, London, or Berlin. Now his father is ill, and though the family has not been close, he immediately decides to return home. What follows is a dramatic tale of fathers and sons, an examination of time and memory, a study of people who believe that a life without principles is not worth living, and a memory of good people who have been so traumatized by events from another time that they have little common ground for communication with other generations. Dividing the novel into four parts, the author describes his childhood memories in Part I (at least those that he remembers after eight years of heavy drug use in Europe); the disappearance and murder, just two months before his arrival, of a man who worked at a local club and knew his father; his decision to examine his father’s personal files and to follow up on his father’s investigation into this death and the long history which preceded it; and his discovery of who his father really is and how he is representative of other fathers whose actions and spirit should not be forgotten

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In this deliciously wicked new novel, her best one yet, Argentine author Claudia Pineiro, focuses once again on the evil that lurks within the hearts of men, even those who seem innocent or numbed by their own circumstances. Honestly does not seem to enter the equation here, as Pineiro also mines this theme in her two previous novels, recently translated for an American audience – All Yours and Thursday Night Widows. As dark as the theme seems to be, the author works it with a light hand, employing surprisingly little violence (which often takes place “offstage”) and creating characters who often bumble their way through the complex mazes of their lives and into situations over which they believe they have little or no control. What follows is a story which resembles something by Chekhov or Guy de Maupassant, as a murder occurs and irony piles on top of irony. Architect Pablo Simi’s predictable life becomes more and more unsettled and eventually goes off the rails. The action is fast and furious, Pablo is suitably dense as a protagonist, and few readers will predict the grand outcomes of this clever and often amusing novel. The biggest crack in the novel ultimately comes in the “wall” of Pablo’s own stultifying and boring life.

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