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Triste's History by Horacio Vazquez Rial
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Triste's History (1987)

by Horacio Vazquez Rial

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Cristobal Artola, known by all as Triste, loved by none except his washerwoman mother, was doomed to a Darwinian existence from birth:

...from the start Triste knew he was up against a stone wall whose polished surface made it impossible even to sink his teeth and claws into it, to cut himself on it while hauling himself up just a few inches, to clutch at the trouser legs of those immediately above: from the start he knew he had to adjust to the demands of the mire and learn to live in it with no hope of reward for his pains...

When Triste's mother dies, he is left in a Buenos Aires slum, completely reliant on himself. An initial attempt at life as an underage pool shark ends painfully. However, the attention it garnered provides a new line of work. Triste finds himself working under the direction of Chaves the priest. The work is infrequent, but pays a handsome retainer, well beyond anything he could earn elsewhere.

Slowly but surely the pair are drawn into the world of Peron's Argentina. Over time, as their work becomes more serious, the roles are reversed and Triste finds himself leading the now lapsed Chaves. Their work remains episodic and random, always directed from above. Neither has the knowledge or skills to progress to planning work in an increasingly fragmented and factional world.

Eventually the day comes when the pair must face up to the extent of their involvement and what it has meant for themselves and others. They make plans to leave both their work and Argentina, but if their lives have taught them anything, it is that life does not go as planned.

Vazquez Rial writes in a style that flows one minute and is staccato the the next, perfectly mirroring the rhythm of Triste's life. Conversations are few, brief and direct. The writing is stark and to the point, wasting no emotion on a character who lived free of emotional entanglement himself.

In his introduction, the author says that in writing this book from exile, he learned the history of "the other", who played such a role in his life in Argentina. Triste is a character we do not often see in literature, but an important one in so much of history.
1 vote SassyLassy | Apr 24, 2012 |
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For Jose Luis Elorriaga, who knew the south beyond the south
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