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Category Archive for 'Argentina'

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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This dramatic and heart-stopping novel recreates very real events of shocking, unimaginable brutality which take place in Argentina in the fall of 1979, three years after the end of the Peronist democracy, and you will not forget these events. After the military seizes power, the characters, as real as you and I, and with the same goals and dreams, have no alternative but to go about their lives trying to maintain a low profile, and as the atrocities continue, they begin to affect these characters and the people they know and love. The novel becomes a revelation in which one cannot help but wonder, ultimately, how these atrocities were allowed to begin at all, and, even more importantly, how they were able to continue unimpeded within a country which was part of the Organization of American States. Rich with history, the novel is populated by a large and well developed cast of characters. The insights into the US position regarding the human rights abuses in these countries, and the secrecy with which they were treated are illuminating, as is the collusion of the Catholic Church in the abuses. An incredible achievement,

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This breezy commentary by Inez Pereyra, wife of Ernesto, belies her initial shock at discovering a lipstick love-heart, saying “All Yours,” inside her husband’s briefcase and her realization that her husband of seventeen years is probably having an affair. From Inez’s point of view, things have been stressful in the month leading up to this discovery. The housework, she explains, has been “exhausting” because she wants everything to be “perfect,” but life has been bearable, and she has not wanted to go looking for trouble (as her mother did, to her own misfortune). Ernesto has been coming home late, working on weekends, and avoiding her, and except for school meetings involving a senior trip for their daughter Lali, he has been physically AWOL for most of the month. For Inez, selfish and deliberately obtuse, however, “The truth is…why confront Ernesto with some big scenario, when this woman’s going to be history in a week anyway?” In the classic (and very dark) farce which emerges from this opening scene and becomes the body of the novel, Inez exploits her husband’s predicament for her own ends, becoming the perfect wife, even as he continues to remain distant, a situation which absolutely begs for conversion into a play or film. The plot moves at warp speed, with twists and turns, surprises galore, and ironies which will keep even a jaded reader entertained and anxious to see how the author will resolve these issues—and laughing out loud almost non-stop.

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Throughout these stories, the reader becomes hypnotized by the succession of Bolano’s images, by the lives he depicts (including his own in the two essays), and by the metaphysical suggestions and possible symbols of his stories, despite the fact that Bolano does not make grand pronouncements or create a formal, organized, and ultimately hopeful view of life as other authors do. There is no coherence to our lives, he seems to say: chaos rules. Although artists of all kinds try to make some sense of life, Bolano suggests that their visions may not be accurate since they have no way of knowing or conveying the whole story, the big picture, the inner secrets of life. He himself avoids such suggestions of order in life. Vibrant and imaginative, Bolano’s stories seduce the reader into and coming back to them again and again looking for answers or explanations that often remain tantalizingly out of reach.

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