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Purgatory by Tomás Eloy Martínez
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Purgatory (2009)

by Tomás Eloy Martínez

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    One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (philosojerk)
    philosojerk: I found Martinez's style in Purgatory very reminiscent of Marquez's in One Hundred Years. If you enjoyed one of them, you would probably enjoy the other.
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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This fronts like an upmarket version of Ghost starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, and certainly each of us remembers when we lost the love of our life and everything stopped making sense and we went off the rails and never quite made it back. Aside from or alongside the pugatory of the title, this book's metaphor of choice for that wandering unto death is maps--I think of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' song of that title, with its very similar feel; and all in all this book does truly prime you to feel a great heaviness behind your eyes and crumple with longing. Our sundered lovers here are cartographers, the kind of metaphor that works because it's so heavyhanded. But then, in practice, the lost-and-found romance kind of founders and pales and stales, and if that was the point then respect to the author for pulling it off, and if, as I suspect, what it means is tht no matter what kind of map to happiness you think you've got hidden under the bed in your palace bedroom in your grey kingdom, it's not gonna get you where you're going. There are some cool bits where it's not just Emilia wondering how her Simon can come back to her and not have aged a day, but the reader wondering if Emilia knows, if it's just us that aren't in on it. But that metaweirdness fizzles, and Purgatory wins at a crawl. And that's fine and probably real, but not fun to read about.

Yeah, the Purrrrg. The grey kingdom. This book is set in Argentina during the dictatorship, with a full complement of atrocities, and I think that's ultimately the point, and the love thing just a husk. The best moments in this book were when the protagonist Emilia's father, a kind of scenery-chewing Eichmann for the junta, came out and did his thing; the one scene I think I won't forget is his meeting with Orson Welles, who says "Call me Orsten" and drips contempt and makes you want to know if he was that utterly impressive in real life. But Dupuy, the evil dad, gets some moments of his own. But the broken mess he makes of his daughter makes it hard to enjoy the campier reaches of his villainy, and I'm not sure if I got much insight into said mess in the end beyond that dictatorship ruins people and they don't un-ruin. Certainly, the parts where the author showed up to reminisce about where he was in '78 seemed sterile; that's too harsh a word for the book as a whole, maybe, but what about … discouraged. ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Dec 10, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is Argentinian journalist and novelist Tomás Eloy Martínez's final novel -- a work exploring memory, being, longing, waiting, and 20th century Argentinan history in a format that is so much more interesting than that sounds. Beautifully written and translated, this is novel is full of meandering truths in the tradition of the best Latin American fiction.

[full review here: http://spacebeer.blogspot.com/2012/11/purgatory-by-tomas-eloy-martinez-2011.html ] ( )
  kristykay22 | Oct 28, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Purgatory is the first novel of Tomás Eloy Martínez to be translated into English since his death in 2010. He is best know for his acclaimed books The Peron Novel, Santa Evita, and The Tango Singer. It is translated from the Spanish by award winning translator Frank Wynne.

This was my first novel by Eloy Martínez, so I had nothing but his reputation to go on but I am always willing to try new authors from Latin America. This one did not let me down. It’s a hauntingly melancholy novel about a woman whose husband disappeared thirty years ago along with thousands of others during Argentina’s military dictatorship. She spends the intervening time searching for him as she hears rumors that he has been seen in various places. What makes the book so poignant is that her own father is a high ranking official in the dictatorship and is almost certainly complicit in his son-in-law’s fate and certainly in that of many of his compatriots. Eloy Martínez really does a great job of portraying how a people can put their blinders on and ignore that what they are doing really does not (and cannot) justify the end. As the novel jumps back and forth between the past and the present, you see the toll that this takes on the family and the country.

When Emilia finally sees her husband Símon in a restaurant, he has not aged a bit from the day he disappeared while she, of course, is 30 years older. As the novel winds on, Emilia withdraws into her “life” with Símon. Is it reality or is it all in her mind? You decide…but you should read this book.

I’ll leave you with my favorite passage from the book:

“I thought about all the things that disappear without our even noticing, because we know only what exists, we know nothing of those things that never come into existence; I thought about the non-being I would have been had my parents conceived me seconds earlier or later. I thought of the libraries of books never written (Borges tried to make up for this absence in ‘The Library of Babel’), but all that remained was the idea, there was no flesh, no bones, a magnificent lifeless idea. I thought about the Mozart symphonies silenced by his untimely death, about the song running through John Lennon’s mind that December night when he was murdered. If we could recover the unwritten books, the lost music, if we could set out in search of what never existed and find it, then we should have conquered death.”

This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviews (sorry it wasn't really "early") ( )
1 vote jveezer | Jun 24, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Purgatory
By Tomas Eloy Martinez
Translation by Frank Wynne
Bloomsbury USA, 273 pgs
978-1-60819-711-8
Rating: 3

Everyone in this novel is loco, at least one taco short of a combo plate. Personally, I have a soft spot for Latino cultures, our neighbors to the south, and Mexico is breaking my heart. I would rather vacation in Peru than in Germany so please don't think I'm prejudiced. Still and all, everyone in this book is insane: the general, the doctor, the mapmaker, the mother, the wife and etc.

Emilia Dupuy's husband Simon Cardoso disappeared in Argentina and has been missing and presumed (or known, depending on who you're talking to) dead for 30 years when she spies him in a restaurant in New Jersey. He has not aged or changed in 30 years, exactly the same. They go back to her place and spend the weekend together. Or maybe they spend the rest of their lives together. Or maybe they don't go back to her place. Maybe Simon is a ghost, or maybe he doesn't exist in any form on any plane.

During the seventies and eighties Argentina suffered from a military dictatorship that had lots in common with the Third Reich and Franco's Spain. Thousands of people were "disappeared." Emilia's father was the chief propagandist for the the general and his regime. In the book the dictator general is referred to as "the Eel" and the appellation is pitch perfect. Simon mouths off one night during dinner and this appears to be the catalyst for everything that comes after.

Emilia and Simon are cartographers and are sent to a remote region to map and are captured by the army, suspected of being subversives. They are separated and interrogated. Emilia is released. What happens after that is murky to say the least. Is Simon released? tortured? executed? There are witnesses who say they witnessed Simon's death or saw his body. Emilia gets anonymous messages claiming he is alive and living in Caracas or Mexico. She spends the rest of her life, as far as we can tell (for not much is actually known), searching for him.

I have had a difficult time deciding what the rating for this book should be. I very much enjoyed the parts in Argentina and the intermittently comedic treatment of the totalitarian regime. I found Emilia's search tedious at times. Mostly this book made me feel impatient. You don't know whether you're coming or going, which way is up? I realize that this is probably what the author intended but geez. It reminded me of the "the big lie" philosophy of the Nazis. Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?

The author of Purgatory was born in Argentina and was forced to live in exile during the military dictatorship. He has written other internationally acclaimed novels such as The Peron Novel and Santa Evita. Senor Martinez was professor of Latin American studies at Rutgers University until his death in 2010. A quote from page 221 about what is lost with death: "If we could recover the unwritten books, the lost music, if we could set out in search of what never existed and find it, then we should have conquered death."

http://www.bloomsburyusa.com/ ( )
  TexasBookLover | May 19, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
For years, you’ve lived in exile, moving from place to place, Emilia; you think you know what it is, but you couldn’t begin to explain it, there are no stories, no words in this desolate terrain because everything within you remained outside the moment you crossed the threshold. You might say that at that moment you entered purgatory, if what came before was hell, if after was paradise, which never came. And when the wandering is over, when you go back to the home you left behind, you think you’re closing the circle, but visiting the museum you realize that the whole journey has been a one-way trip, always leaving. No one returns from exile. What you forsake, forsakes you.

Emilia Dupuy is a cartographer from Argentina, working for a small map company in New Jersey. She has devoted much of her life to the hope that she may one day see her husband Simon again, who disappeared in Argentina during the Dirty War. Purgatory tells the story of Emilia’s loneliness and of her search for her husband, but also the story of the personal impact of tens of thousands of political disappearances in Argentina during the 1970’s and early 80’s.

This was one of the best books I’ve read in the last year. Despite the important historical and political context which sets the backdrop (and a good bit of the foreground) for this novel, what stood out the most to me was the absolutely breathtaking writing. I read all but about 50 pages of this book in one sitting, because I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the page. I was literally entranced, it was like I was dreaming. The narrative is fluid and easy, and I just got lost in Emilia’s world. Martinez writes about atrocity and horror and pain, but somehow never lets the reader lose sight of the beauty of his characters or of the tangible reality of the world that he describes. It is so hard to explain what he creates, the best I can do is to describe his magical realist style as very similar to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, only better (if that’s possible).

I very much look forward to discovering more of Martinez’s works now that I’ve been introduced to him. I also have to give a hat tip to the translator, Frank Wynne, who managed to retain the elegance and simplicity of Martinez’s words, which I imagine is a very difficult task. Go out and read this book – it is 100% worth it. ( )
1 vote philosojerk | Apr 21, 2012 |
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Simón Cardoso had been dead for thirty years when Emilia Dupuy, his wife, found him at lunchtime in the dining room of Trudy Tuesday. So begins Purgatory, the final and perhaps most personal work of the great Latin American novelist Tomás Eloy Martínez. Emilia Dupuy's husband vanished in the 1970s, while the two were mapping an Argentine country road. All evidence seemed to confirm that he was among the thousands disappeared by the military regime. Yet Emilia never stopped believing that the disappeared man would reappear. And then he does, in New Jersey. And for Simón, no time at all has passed. In Martínez's hands, this love story and ghost story becomes a masterful allegory for history political and personal, and for a country's inability to integrate its past with its present
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Simn Cardoso had been dead for thirty years when Emilia Dupuy, his wife, found him at lunchtime in the dining room of Trudy Tuesday. So begins Purgatory, the final and perhaps most personal work of the great Latin American novelist Toms Eloy Martnez.

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