Book 69 Completed
Imagining Argentina really is more of a novella; I have decided this after I nearly finished it in one day. (I would have finished it in one day, but reading the last fourteen pages, by my fire — like I promised — was interrupted by a little boy with nightmares. And that cannot be ignored…even for fourteen pages of riveting text.)
I did not know much about Argentina’s political history during the 1970s. I was unaware of the rule of the generals and the genocide that took place there. Yeah, my schooling was severely deficient in covering world history outside of the World Wars — outside of Europe, really. (Case-in-point: My senior year World History teacher was blinded by cataracts and underwent a massive surgery to correct them; we had a long-term-sub who knew nothing about history…but that was of no-consequence, because even though he was out on disability, our teacher showed up, blind as a bat, and lectured us anyway. The sub knitted right next to him and then tapped his shoulder if someone raised his/her hand with a question. And all he lectured us on was Europe during the World Wars. The end.)
So, with that amazing education under my belt, I can honestly say that my knowledge of Argentinean history begins and ends with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita.” (Much of the musical’s historical content has been proved faulty — so…maybe we should establish that I knew nothing.)
But Imagining Argentina begins in the midst of this “Dirty War” and the story progresses to a fever pitch of terror/anticipation. It’s sorrowful and moving. Operating as a piece of magical realism, the book carries you away into a world where a man, Carlos, can see the fates of those who have “disappeared” from the streets. With just a name, he pictures and feels what they’ve gone through and can even see years into the future — where they are, what they’ll say, if they’ll survive. As the book progresses, things happen exactly as Carlos says; which is at times wondrous and devastating.
A strong focus in the novel is this group of mothers who have congregated, despite fear for their own safety, to look for their lost children. One of the powerful lines from the book (which I DON’T have sitting in front of me, so, I’ll paraphrase), talks about how they have to choose between the safety of hope in NOT knowing, and the potential for heartbreak in knowing what happened to their kids. For a long time as I read, I debated this exact dilemma. If the end result is death, torture, rape…would it be worth knowing the truth? How would it affect my life to just always hold on to the sliver that my child is the one that escaped into exile — that he/she is alive somewhere?
To know the truth is to abandon our own imaginations.
This book is profound and very compelling. The thread that keeps you turning the pages until the end is whether or not Carlos will be able to find his wife Cecilia — a disappeared whose story he cannot see in its entirety — and because he cannot see her clearly, like all the others, he wonders if she is gone and he is just making up her images. Thornton’s book was a good choice for Argentina. And I would recommend it for people who want a quick read that makes you think and packs an emotional punch.