Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

domingo, febrero 12, 2012


Rodolfo Fogwill(1941-2010)

Rodolfo Fogwill's 2010 obituary tells the story:

Loud-mouthed, provocative, often downright rude, the writer Rodolfo Fogwill was a legendary figure in recent Argentinian literature. Fogwill, who has died aged 69, from pulmonary emphysema, probably exacerbated by his inveterate chain-smoking, quarrelled with everybody, was intolerant of any writing or behaviour that in his view smacked of political correctness or pretension, and yet wrote some of the most resonant short stories and novels in Argentina of the past 30 years.

The story surrounding the way he wrote one of his most important novels, Los Pichiciegos (1983), is typical. The book was a protest at the horror of the war fought between Britain and Argentina over the Malvinas/Falkland islands in the South Atlantic, and at the stupidity of war in general. Fogwill claimed to have written the book in six days during June 1982, while the war was still going on, keeping himself going with vast amounts of cocaine and whisky.

A brilliant description of life underground during the conflict, Fogwill stressed that the book was above all a "mental experiment". "I knew how cold it was down there from my sailing days," he said. "I knew about youngsters because I had several of my own. I knew about the Argentine army because I did national service. Out of this I constructed a fictional experiment that was much closer to reality than if they had sent me to the islands with a tape recorder and a camera."

The novel (which I [Nick Caistor] translated with Amanda Hopkinson) was his only work published in Britain, by Serpent's Tail in 2007, which gave it the title Malvinas Requiem, rather than its literal translation, The Armadillos. This enraged Fogwill, who saw it as lending a sanctimonious touch to what he wanted to be a condemnation of all ideologies in favour of the dreadful demands made of terrified youngsters on both sides of the war, whose only wish was to survive and get home safely.

Wow. So I got a copy of Los Pichiciegos (Malvinas Requiem aka Armadillos) and today devoured it all. It turned out that it was all good and more. A remarkable, evocative, antiwar novella. It doesn't matter much that the war in question over Las Malvinas/The Falklands was fought between England and Argentina in June, 1982, almost thirty years ago. And it doesn't matter, if you're reading the book in English, that the translation doesn't do very well with the soldiers' cursing, swearing and slang. No. All of that is of no matter at all. It's still a remarkably affecting, brilliant telling of the story of two dozen Argentine soldiers who have deserted and spend the end of the war hiding out, literally underground. It's also a deft indictment of the Argentine military junta that provoked the bloodshed over a symbolic, but horrible island, one with a bleak, freezing landscape, horizontal snow and interminably gray skies. Says one of the deserters about this isla de la guerra, "You'd have to be English to want this." How true. How sad. But perfect.

For reasons only Amazon knows, the book ships in 1 to 3 months. C'mon, man! Meanwhile, our friends at can serve it up used for $10 bucks +/- including shipping from the UK. Get it while you can.

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