It was first published in , however the first edition of the book was sequestered by the Argentine government, and thus was largely not available to the public until its second printing in The front cover showed a skull and a scythe, and the back cover an inverted cross over a puddle of blood, created - along with other interior illustrations - by artist Teodoro Piotti. The author had a copy sent to the Vatican, mocking the Pope with his accompanying letter: "So that your doormen will let it through, so that it may attract your attention, so that it will be a bright note of relevance in the sad hall of your dark library; I have plated its covers in silver". The bourgeois press immediately attacked the title of the book, criticizing it before its release, which demonstrated to me that the full and the satiated, with just conscience, were given as future victims of such a right.
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Save Story Save this story for later. He told police that he had wished only to commit suicide. After spending his twenties partying, he began publishing novels. He also got involved in politics, which is how he met Clotilde. He invested in olive oil and mining while editing papers that supported the nationalization of all means of production. Clotilde became a prominent feminist and academic, specializing in pedagogy. When a U. By then, Jorge was a teen-ager.
He had lived a peripatetic childhood. His parents lived separately for years, and he changed schools often, following them into and out of exile, depending on who held power. A few hours later, he shot himself in the head, and died. Sabattini spent the years that followed going through surgical procedures to reconstruct her facial features. In , fourteen years after the attack, she, too, committed suicide, by jumping out a window. Now there is a version in English New Directions , translated by Camilo Ramirez, which maintains much of the strange, beguiling aura of the original.
It opens with a car ride to the hospital. Mario, the narrator, is sitting in the back seat, while his mother, Eligia Presotto, is in the front. This crimson color encroached on the violets and purples with the same intensity, and her lips seemed to possess a radiance of their own. Mario accompanies his mother, first in Buenos Aires and later in Milan, as doctors attempt to reconstruct her face, and reports on the minutiae of coloration and tone, the topography of the flesh.
An alter ego? A nom de plume? He is tormented by the memory of his father. Separating the life from the work is impossible. Advertisement Ruthlessness can be a good literary strategy, and any autobiographical novel that portrays a harrowing event must be vigilant about self-pity.
He has a particular gift for showing how quickly the absurd mundanity of life reasserts itself after a shocking tragedy. You can imagine his level of experience. Before leaving the room, she leans in to kiss Eligia, her potential mother-in-law, cheek to cheek, only to catch herself: there is no cheek to speak of.
This fascination with flesh soon extends to others—the hospital chaplain, various patients, a prostitute he meets at a bar in Milan—whose bodily and facial features Mario dotes on with disturbing, clinical interest.
On the flight to Italy, he almost drinks himself into a coma. He accompanies her on visits to her clients, and witnesses scenes of physical and psychological abuse. Toward the end of the book, he commits a bizarre act of violence against Dina—a dark, unsubtle reminder of his emotional patrimony.
Eligia, meanwhile, remains something of an enigma throughout the book, more mysterious than her misanthropic husband. Even in the moments of affection between mother and son—when they interlace fingers briefly, or when he picks out little pieces of hair from her raw, misplaced eyelids—the ghost of the father lurks.
Their brother, Carlos, apparently leads a private existence. The novel has a willful messiness, as though it were constantly trying to sabotage itself; the italicized passages dissolve any possible unity or symmetry as soon as it threatens to appear on the page. But, reading the novel now, one finds that, despite its flaws, it does not seem like a curiosity. It feels strikingly of the moment, as a resurgent feminist movement draws attention to the wide scope of misogyny.
In the story of Aron and Eligia, misogyny is a force that cuts across ideological lines. His contradictions seem less the product of a deep, tormented nature than of a shallow megalomania. After a few years or even months, these parades would disappear having accomplished nothing. Peronism radically redrew the political landscape in Argentina from the nineteen-forties onward, taking over many of the progressive platforms of the U. Eligia embodies values that neither her megalomaniac husband nor her country seem interested in: a faith in slow, rational progress; deep skepticism toward the cult of personality; a refusal to rely on grand emotional gestures.
She is the anti-Evita. Advertisement What the two women share is the experience of being used and punished by men. In the run-up to a local election, she goes to a village in the mountains, and her son watches as she tries to work the crowd. The crowd keeps listening to his mother, waiting for some mention of her disfigured face, while she goes on about the increased grade-repetition rate in primary schools.
Raúl Barón Biza
How Jorge Barón Biza Turned His Family Tragedy Into Fiction