It is an inexplicable oddity (to me) that, for example, while the the greatest country in the world was deeply (and righteously) concerned with the genocidal events in the ethnic quagmire of the Balkans it was also funding Somozistan criminals in Nicaragua, death squads in El Salvador and continuing to support a gaggle of murderous generals that it helped to install in Guatemala. And consider that I haven’t yet made it out of Central America.
Now I may be stretching things to bring this sorry history up but these are the thoughts that Carolina De Robertis’s second novel, Perla (Knopf)occasioned. The story centers on a young Argentine woman, Perla who in the oddest, most unsettling way has to deal with the after shocks of what is known outside Argentina as the Dirty Little War(1976-1983).Her father was a Naval Officer. A blight on Argentine and human history, which led to the disappearance of 30,000 people (hence the Spanish word “desaparecidos”), Argentina’s particular contribution (or was it the Chileans?) to state security tactics was to fly prisoners out over the Atlantic Ocean and throw them in the sea. Nice, huh? Keep in mind, that the officer corps of most Latin American nations had some anti-terrorist training at the so-called School of the Americas (The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) in Columbus, Georgia.
Now these plague years have produced a significant commentary (and an OScar winning foreign film, The Official Story), the definitive account Nunca Mas. And Lawrence Weschler’s A Miracle, a Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers (Pantheon) describes the movements in both Argentina and Brazil to come to accounts with the juntas’ monstrous depredations and their perpetrators.
Señora De Robertis’s (who is, by the way,Uruguayan— a country that had its own repressive junta)Perla takes on this harrowing and haunting history which involves her family, an incredible (and I mean incredible) interloper, her lover Gabriel and the whole flimsy cloth of Argentine civil society.Honestly, I didn’t want to continue reading this story but much like watching some terrible disaster, I could not pull away my gaze. Kudos, to this brave writer for that,for her skillful telling and for not forgetting.
Currently reading Snowdrops by A.D.Miller (Anchor)