Purgatory by Tomas Eloy Martinez
Translator – Frank Wynne
I read his Santa Evita a mythical magic realism tale based around the life of Eva Peron early on in the blog and have Tango singer sat on my shelves so when this arrived from Bloomsbury I was excited even more so when I saw it was one of Frank Wynne’s translation ,for me one of the best translators in the world and certainly when in comes to complex fiction like this .
So Purgatory was Tomas last novel and the fact that in part it is narrated by a north american based Argentina writer as Tomas Eloy himself .The story is centre on Simon and Emilia these where husband and wife, when thirty years earlier in the seventies at the height of the disappearances in Argentina by the Junta .Simon disappear whilst doing his job as a cartographer .Now thirty years later his wife Emilia walks in a bar and sitting there is Simon ,but he hasn’t aged a day ,is it him or a ghost that never really gets answered but as the story progress Martinez jumps from the events leading up to Simon disappearance there married life ,their work as cartographers ,also what was going on around them .We also her Emilia talking to the writer in the modern day about her life and Simon .Also the outside world of the world cup of 78 which was held in Argentina ,Orson Welles and UFO all crop up along the way .
Simon disappeared in Tucuman at the beginning of July .The days were mild and the nights frosty .He and Emilia had been sent to the Tucuman by the automobile club on an easy mission , virtually a holiday .They were to map a ten kilometre stretch of an invisible route – nothing more than a dotted line on the map to the south of the province .
in this quote it seems ok til you read it closer .
Now this story is layered the title is a give away to the subject Purgatory and even this has many faces ,Emilia unable to properly move on with her life after Simons disappearance as she has been in limbo like many wifes of the disappeared ,has maybe by see him purged this feeling from her life .Argentina its self maybe after a time of not looking at what happened during the time of disappearances and now is maybe just recently is able to face what happened during that time of the junta .I ve seen this in a number of recent Argentina novels I ve read Kamchatka and open secret to name two .Also Martinez who at time he wrote book had cancer and maybe this book is his way of purging what happened at the time as well he saw many thinks at first hand and at a distance as he was a journalist at the time .The story mixes what happened with fiction so well and also how it affect everyday Argentina’s .Again Martinez shows his ability to use magic realism to make reality even bolder than before .A fitting testament to his writing life and a great job as ever by Frank bring it to English.
Have you read Martinez ?