Imagining Argentina is set in thedark days of the late 1970's, when thousands ofArgentineans disappeared without a trace into thegeneral's prison cells and torture chambers. WhenCarlos Ruweda's wife is suddenly taken from him, hediscovers a magical gift: In waking dreams, he hadclear visions of the fates of "thedisappeared." But he cannot "imagine" whathas happened to his own wife. Driven to nearmadness, his mind cannot be taken away: imagination, stories, andthe mystical secrets of the humanspirit.
From the Trade Paperback edition. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (19)
This story will stay with you.
I read this novel in college, over four years ago. I still remember it's vivid imagery & haunting tale. If you enjoy imaginative language & visual descriptions, this book is for you. The adventure & colorful imagery will make the pages turn quickly. It is an easy read & a great fiction spun off historic events.
This is one of my favorite books. Engrossing. Prepared to be stolen from your daily life until you finish it.
Nice, at times Compelling, but it rings false
As an Argetine who grew up in Europe and in the US as well as in Buenos Aires, I was attracted to this novel, but almost from the first page had a hard time sustaining my suspension of disbelief.
I find it very hard to accept that while Lawrence Thornton's creative imagination may have been captured by the very idea of Argentina --by its beauty, its complexity, and its horror-- he nonetheless did not even find it necessary to actually visit the country where his novel takes place.
I just simply don't understand this! As a writer, research is always fundamental and though some may very well point out that this is a story about "imagining" Argentina, still, in actual fact, the story line itself does not imagine Argentina at all, but actually takes place IN the country, IN the city of Buenos Aires, by an American supposedly living there and by supposedly very Argentine human beings.
Therefore: to start with, right on the very first or second page, he talks of "Calle Cordova" -- a place which does not, in fact, exist or has ever existed. There is an AVENIDA CORDOBA in Buenos Aires, but Calle Cordova is probably in Madrid! Right there, I was pulled away from the story and had a hard time "imagining" what was going on and although it's true that most of the readers for this book will not be Argentines or even people who know Argentina, it still seems silly to write a book about a place, whether mystical or not, and not get your facts right! After all, would a Frenchman write a book about New York depicting the Statue of Liberty as being in Long Island? Or 5th Avenue actually being called "Fif Street"? I think not. And even if there are more people in the world who know New York well enough to check these facts and complain, it still makes no sense. If you write about a subject, check your sources. Actually, the very thing that attracts strangers to the idea of Argentina is its elusiveness, the fact that it is almsot forgotten territory, at the bottom of a continent, and if you do decide to bring it out into the open, then make sure what you're writing is true. You need to at least center your fiction on something real; this is what makes the fictional so compelling. By centering fantasy within reality, the reader can say to himself, well, this COULD have happened, why not?
South American masterminds of fantastical literature, which seems to be Thornton's inspiration, like Garcia Marquez and even Isabel Allende, know their subjects very well and what compells the reader into the fantasy of their fiction is the fact that every detail is perfectly described and easily visuallized, because all these details are true.
(Another point: the flowers in these gardens, such as cyclamen, would be hard to find in a typical Buenos Aires garden!!)
That said, there's a lot to like in this novel, even though the long-winded sentences do sound better in a Spanish language novel than in English. But the voice is at times compelling, the quest is formidable and very human, and the climax, though a bit tepid, is filled with optimism.
I wanted to address the comments of people who said this novel was not historically accurate.I write this as an Argentina Human Rigths Activist and the founder of Proyecto Desaparecidos, http://www.desaparecidos.org/arg/ .It's exactly the opposite, reading the story was as if the Ruedas clan had been introduced into a completely real situation.The story starts with a real event, the forced-disappearance of several students who were lobbying for student-priced bus fare.Cecilia, Carlos Ruedas' wife is a journalist with the real-life newspaper La Opinión, the only newspaper (save for English language Buenos Aires Herald) that actually dared to write about the repression and the disappeared at that time.In response, she's disappeared herself (and the account of her disappearance comes straight from the testimonies of such events) and taken to the ESMA where she's tortured and treated in a "typical" manner for the time.In his search for her, Carlos comes into contact with many real-life people, most of whom are given pseudonyms in the book.For example Mario Rabán, alias "Gustavo Santos", is a navy man who in the book infiltrates the families of the disappeared and plans their kidnaping at the Church of the Holy Cross, where they met.In real life, Alfredo Astiz, alias "Gustavo Niño", was a navy man who infiltrated the families of the disappeared and planned their kidnaping at the Santa Cruz Church.Both in the book and real life, Rabán/Astiz also shoots Dagmar Hageling (her real name).
The types of stories told by Carlos about what happened to the disappeared are very realistic, though perhaps there is a greater rate of escapes and liberations in his stories than in real life.Still, most seem to have been taken out of real testimonies.The winding down of the repression, with Amnesty International's and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' visits are also historical events, as is the eventual trial of the generals.
There a couple of things that are not completely accurate, such as the command line structure at the (real life) secret detention center ESMA, but this is a novel and that type of detail would hinder rather than help the story.
Finally, what I found most amazing was the voice of the narrator and thus of the book itself.It sounded like Argentine Spanish translated into English, so much so, that sometimes I found myself translating back into Spanish for an easier flow.How an American writer can accomplish such a feat is a mystery to me.
I was assigned Thornton's Imagining Argentina for my International Politics class last semester and dreaded the day that I would have to read the book.
Much to my surprise, Imagining Argentina is a gripping novel about the tortures experienced in Argentina and throughout South America.
Thornton's grasp of Magical Realism is astonishing, especially given his native tongue and land.Thornton shows an obvious study of Spanish and South American literature and manages to evoke the nature of Magical Realism in a book written in English for an American audience.
Read Imagining Argentina.It is a fascinating novel that is impressive in both literary prowess and contemporary political importance.
... Read more