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February 2004

Prose Tangos


A tradition of experimentation, a musical sense of language, and political bite—these seem to characterize the astonishingly rich literature of Argentina. From the wild linguistic inventions of Xul Solar (who influenced Borges, as we learn in a superb essay by Cecilia Vicuña) to the controlled intensity of Edgardo Cozarinsky and Ricardo Piglia, to the lyric beauty of Ernesto Sábato's "Before the End" and Juan José Saer's sinuous "Boundless River," Argentina reminds us of the vitality of great writing. Both Tomás Eloy Martínez in "Reina's Flight" and Rodolfo Walsh in "That Woman" bring a journalist's eye and stylist's prose to political "fiction" that is unnervingly true-to-life, while Alicia Dujovne Ortiz provides a passionate view of exile Argentine-style. We also take pleasure in the wit of Maria Fasce's "Modern Hero," the subdued erotic atmosphere of Graciela Speranza's "English Craft," and the finely-calibrated suspense of César Aira's "Literature Conference." And we celebrate translators Marina Harss and Amanda Hopkinson, who have made so many of these works available to us.

from English Craft

The narrator is visiting London, sent by a Buenos Aires newspaper, to interview the famous British author Davies. She is haunted by a profound early friendship with Ana, and equally by a

That Woman

This story was inspired by a bizarre episode in Argentinean history. After the overthrow of Juan Perón in 1955, the embalmed corpse of his wife, the immensely popular "Evita," was

A Modern Hero

There are no heroes in the city. Nor in the country. This is the problem that modern women face. Our men don't go to war, and if they did it would be out of stupidity or

from Before the End

1 I walk along the Avenida Costanera Sur,1 contemplating the portentous river, traversed just over a century ago by thousands of Spaniards, Italians, Jews, Poles, Albanians, Russians, and

“Nowhere has denying”

Nowhere has denying reigned as rife as in this not which is outsitting me here.Oh, if only death would outstare itself for ever in its iron mirror. God, what a down-at-heel hope

“Then they went away too”

"Then they went away too." Hardly had I known them. I also hardly stayed behind. I would have liked to write something down, but I had forgotten to writeit down. If you listen to

“One fine day it was night”

One fine day it was night. I seemed to be just about to catch my first fish. Suddenly it allconspires against me. It was too late to unbait my hook. I head for home, humming

“Since nobody was there anyway”

Since nobody was there anyway, and since it is not blocked off, it's time for a walk once again along the brink of the beach, where all of a sudden the woods held back, or have

If later, or sooner, it is

If later, or sooner, it is, or becomes, sayable-this is the most thingable it will be; best of all, let my text encircle someonewho foists it on himself, or by whom it's fobbed

“As simple as a drop of water”

1 As simple as a drop of water, as clear as a splinter of birch, Because the foal falls patiently, cautiously out of the horse and is able to stand, And the fish unfolds

“With one hand in my lap”

With one hand in my lap, with my other hand on the table. My head is located above it;in which a landscape drops anchor, sun-drenched. It is one moonless evening. While his son

Co ecos Astri:  Xul Solar of Buenos Aires

Xul said of himself: "I am maestro of a writing no one reads yet" and "I am world champion of a game no one knows." But Jorge Luis Borges, who was influenced by him, said: "Xul took on the

“Yesterday, yes, I still existed here”

Yesterday, yes, I still existed here: in this pitiful winestain, in these paupered words way past their prime,in that handshake which I will never manage to hold in any of my

from To the Person Leaving

I have emigrated three times in my life. In 1978, I emigrated from Argentina to come to France, because a military dictatorship had taken hold in my country. In 1999, I emigrated from

from The Boundless River

“Literary fanaticism, in any of its forms, whether from the point of view of master or disciple, has always been incompatible with the intelligence and free spirit of Saer.”—José Saramago

from The Literature Conference

Part One: The Macuto Yarn On a journey I recently had cause to make to Venezuela, I had the opportunity to admire the famous "Macuto Yarn," one of the Wonders of the New World. It is the

Brief Stories

There was a woman who never did anything without first consulting the I Ching. She imagined a game of roulette in which the bets were paid with the events of the player's life. The

The Bride from Odessa

One spring evening in 1890, from his vantage point up on the Primorsky Boulevard, a young man was watching the movement of ships in the port of Odessa. Decked out in his Sunday finest, he

from Reina’s Flight

The President Has Mystical Visions." This was the headline in the Heraldo. Mr. Camargo had been convinced that the Heraldo, his newspaper's rival, would not publish a single word about


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