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Hades, Argentina: A Novel (edició 2021)
de Daniel Loedel (Autor)
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Hades, Argentina de Daniel Loedel
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Book Review-Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel
This first novel by the writer David Loedel is a winning effort. Set during the tumultuous years 1976 to 1986 we follow the main character, Tomas Orilla, as he attempts to revisit and reclaim his life. Growing up in Mar del Plata he is entwined with his mother’s friend Pichuca and her two daughters, Isabel and Nerea. Enamored he develops a lasting crush on Isa, a strong willed, beguiling, mysterious young woman.
As the military dictatorship takes hold both sisters become active members of the Montaneros, urban guerillas who form a revolutionary cadre inspired by the Argentine Che Guevara. Tomas, more interested in his studies, chess and obsessive love allows Isa to recruit him. As a young boy, Tomas is mentored in his chess studies by The Colonel, a military man whose childless marriage feeds a paternal relationship with Tomas.
The book captures well how a young man’s first crush can be hard to navigate on an emotional level yet this tale, with the overload of the military dictatorship reign of terror, results in it being even more devastating.
At Isabel’s direction Tomas ingratiates himself to The Colonel and weasels his way into a part-time job at the Automotores, a converted garage in the outskirts of Buenos Aires where he spies for the Montaneros. There he cleans rooms and, as a medical student, is instructed to give injections of sodium pentothal which are disguised as mere vaccinations to the prisoners who are “drugged and then dropped into the depths of the Rio de la Plata”. He struggles to balance his secondary role in the torture process with the knowledge that he is providing valuable information to the revolutionary effort. This becomes an even heavier endeavor when he reveals to Isa the identity of one of the main torturers called, The Priest, who is then assassinated which leads to an investigation at the Automotores. While Tomas evades suspicion, it later comes back to him when he aids a Uruguayan activist and a young female American prisoner whom he is attracted to. They escape, a guard is killed and, shortly thereafter, the Automotores is shut down. Tomas is helped by the Colonel to obtain a passport and escapes to Rome and then the United States.
The story nimbly moves to and fro between the years 1976 when the events occurred, and 1986 when Tomas returns to visit Pachuca on her deathbed. The story exists in both time zones and are intertangled with dreams and ghosts which are fueled by his own unresolved feelings of guilt, remorse, and unrequited love.
Daniel Loedel, impressively here in his very first novel, has created a touching, sometime riveting tale, much in the tradition of great Argentine literature. The writer he most reminds me of is the late Tomas Eloy Martinez and his books, Purgatory and The Tango Singer (as I make this connection I wonder if the main character’s name influenced my association or is it purposeful on the author’s part).
The author states that this book was inspired by his own sister’s disappearance at the hands of the military dictatorship. This work is a testament to her memory, and is a great addition to the literature of these times.
"A debut novel as impressive as they come. Tough, wily, dreamlike." --Seattle Times A decade after fleeing for his life, a man is pulled back to Argentina by an undying love. In 1976, Tomás Orilla is a medical student in Buenos Aires, where he has moved in hopes of reuniting with Isabel, a childhood crush. But the reckless passion that has long drawn him is leading Isabel ever deeper into the ranks of the insurgency fighting an increasingly oppressive regime. Tomás has always been willing to follow her anywhere, to do anything to prove himself. Yet what exactly is he proving, and at what cost to them both? It will be years before a summons back arrives for Tomás, now living as Thomas Shore in New York. It isn't a homecoming that awaits him, however, so much as an odyssey into the past, an encounter with the ghosts that lurk there, and a reckoning with the fatal gap between who he has become and who he once aspired to be. Raising profound questions about the sometimes impossible choices we make in the name of love, Hades, Argentina is a gripping, ingeniously narrated literary debut.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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Reality blended into the fictional, sometimes it was difficult to discern which was which. Do you believe in second chances? How does one absorb the horrors of the past, your part in it and still have a future? All questions that form parts of this novel. The horrors and terrors, the torture of so many, families not knowing what happened to their loved ones, these were real. Groups that fought against the coup, like the Montonaros, which is how Tomas gets involved. In fact the book was inspired by the authors half-sister who was a Montonaro and one of the disappeared. She was only 22.
"Reality has a way of never letting even the direst of expectations catch up with it."
"Much to simple a notion, your regret. Do something, don't do something--as if actions could be reduced to such measly forks in the road." ( )