Picks and Pans Review: Imagining Argentina

updated 01/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Lawrence Thornton

Set in Buenos Aires in the late 70s during the horror of los desaparecidos ("the disappeared ones"), this novel is a testament to the power of the imagination to heighten the impact of real events. In a garden fragrant with cyclamen and roses, Carlos Rueda tells nighttime stories that come true. To a frightened but hopeful group of mothers and relatives of the missing, he speaks each week of those who have been kidnapped by the government. Carlos conducts seances where he visualizes the missing, their tortures and their fates. "We should have seen Carlos as a charlatan with good intentions," says the narrator, "but I believe everyone felt what I felt—that we were indeed in a place where anything could happen." For Carlos, a musician and director of the Argentine National Children's Theatre, the sense of triumph that accompanies his visions quickly sours after his own wife and child are kidnapped. Only then do his stories expand beyond mere reports; they begin to explore the emotional and moral conflicts underlying the ruthless repression in Argentina. In a style that owes much to the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, this, the California-born Thornton's first novel, is an engrossing example of how eloquence can challenge the silence bred by fear and ignorance. (Doubleday, $16.95)

From Our Partners