Monday, April 19, 2010

Operation Eyes

[Editor's note: By popular demand, here is a translation of a recent post from Desde Yanquilandia from the Spanish.]

A week or so ago, I finished reading two books I brought back from Argentina in January. The first was a "The Question in Their Eyes," a novel, and the second "Operación Traviata," a jourmalist's investigative account of the 1973 murder of Argentine unionist José Ignacio Rucci.

Both books fascinated me by their common underlying themes, justice and injustice in Argentina, violence and dark, the "decensus in averno" the country experienced in the seventies. The authors of both books, oddly enough, belong to the that generation was too young to have really experienced all that and they have in common an oblique approach to the era, yet one that in my opinion is reliable.

The facts in question in the novel (which I understand differs from the Oscar-winning adaptation to film, "The Secret in Their Eyes") occurs in the late sixties, mostly in the central courts building I passed by every school day on the 102 bus. There are references to things I remember and also details of adult life that I did not experience in the flesh while in Buenos Aires.

As for Rucci's murder, it was a fleeting memory of a news story that flashed briefly when I lived in Canada. Despite my ideological and moral sympathies toward the labor movement and collective bargaining, to me Argentine union leaders who always seemed to be thugs, having workers shut off electricity whenever they wanted to pressure the government, which for many years was the largest employer.

But all that, in the novel and journalist's account, came before military repression, the Montonero and the ERP guerrillas, and eventually the disappeared and Weimar-like inflation in Argentina. No to mention other things.

Neither author expends effort attempting to debate whether the military really were "gorillas," as Argentine opponents called them, or which faction of Peronism was right. Everybody knows that the conclusion to such debates might be yes, no, and none of them.

Both authors treat that tragic and hair-raising recent history as background noise. Their stories, far from ignoring the noise, end up explaining and conveying the everyman experience of those years in Argentina, without getting into polemics.

A common crime becomes a reflection on violence, the shortcuts that sometimes one has to take to see justice served and the ultimate probability that there is no solution to such conundrums, apart from love. Similarly, premeditated murder and treachery become the excuse to examine the evolution of political and paramilitary forces in 1973 as they were heading for disaster, with the lone and persistent reporter cleverly avoiding the argument traps to present a credible version of what actually happened.

For 200 years, ever since the populace first demanded open proceedings in the discussion of breaking with Spain, the Argentine people have been demanding to know what is going in the spheres of power and institutionalized violence that the state assumes in name of society. These books bring that demand a step closer to becoming reality.

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