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El tango de la Guardia Vieja

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  3,135 ratings  ·  379 reviews
«Una pareja de jóvenes apuestos, acuciados por pasiones urgentes como la vida, se mira a los ojos al bailar un tango aún no escrito, en el salón silencioso y desierto de un transatlántico que navega en la noche. Trazando sin saberlo, al moverse abrazados, la rúbrica de un mundo irreal cuyas luces fatigadas empiezan a apagarse para siempre.»
Un extraño desafío entre dos
Paperback, 504 pages
Published November 21st 2012 by Alfaguara (first published December 10th 2010)
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Greg Marcy, I'd love to see a movie version of this. But the budget would be massive as the story is on an epic scale. I can't believe this wasn't an…moreMarcy, I'd love to see a movie version of this. But the budget would be massive as the story is on an epic scale. I can't believe this wasn't an international bestseller: I really enjoyed it.(less)

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 ·  3,135 ratings  ·  379 reviews

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Jul 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
I am definitely getting old for this kind of book. Glamour scenarios, like luxury boats traveling from Europe to South America, amazing hotels and cocktails, a touch of exotic old guard tango in Buenos Aires during the 20s, Italian spies, and high rolling casinos (Monte Carlo, of course). Put all that against a historically interesting context: civil war in Spain, preparations for the Second World War, the Cold War and chess championships in the 60s 70s. Add a little sex. Not to much, after all ...more
Great Pretender  (Daria)
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: foreign-authors
There is a theory that counterclockwise motion in tango symbolizes an attempt to turn back time and relive one`s past and memories. And that`s the theme of the book. That`s why it consists of two layers – the past and the present, wrapped around two people, man and woman, so different and at the same time drawn to each other. The book contains their memories of younger versions of themselves, that exists no more. How can a person live, when the world has changed and he has not?

There`s Max,
Gary Guinn
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review: What We Become, by Arturo Perez-Reverte
I read the last thirty pages of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s novel in short, intense, bursts, just a few pages at a time, for one simple reason: I didn’t want it to end. The novel had become that kind of book, the one you look at from across the room and breathe deep and want to slip back into that world. But you say “No, I’ll wait a while. It will be even better. And the experience will last longer.” There have been only a handful of those in my reading
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, netgalley
Gripping! Complex!

In the first three pages or so I was a tad confused. I felt detached, disoriented even. As I should! I was crossing the Atlantic bound from Lisbon to Buenos Aires--ar least the characters I was about to become totally engaged with were. As I read on I became absolutely fascinated with them all. Max, I envisage as an aging Pierce Brosnan type, suave and sophisticated harbouring the faint memory of a rougher beginning. As we go between Max's past and present, between his coming
Steph LaPlante
Sep 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rating 3/10. Get ready for a very negative review, sorry I promise I am a nice person.

Wow ok, I can't even begin to explain how happy I am to have finished this book. I literally have been saying from page 50 how much I didn't like it and was praying it would get better, it didn't.

I am not even entirely sure where to begin. The summary of the novel made it sound like it would be an interesting, exciting adventure. It was boring and there was not one likeable thing about any character. The story
Ana Garza
I liked it, but I felt it was long. Any part that didn't have Max or Mecha in it, I found myself skipping over. Their romance was fire!
BOOK 6 - Around the World Read - Spain
Arturo Perez-Reverte was born in Cartegna, Spain in 1951. I've read 5 of his books and enjoyed them, especially "The Fencing Master". The Spanish title is "El tango de la Guardia Vieja" and the translator I used indicates this is "The Tango of the Old Guard". 'Old Guard', in the sense of an old way of doing things, makes sense as a title but what first comes to mind, if this title were seen in English language bookstores, might be an older man, or something
I think I may now have read all Perez-Reverte's books, except the Captain Alistriste, which never managed to capture my interest. I find them fascinating, intellectual puzzles that satisfy me completely--and I'm sorry to have to read them in translation. My favorite may be The Flanders Panel, in part because I love medieval painting, but this is a fine addition to his oeuvre. The hero is a thief, and a bit of a rogue, though a charming one. His adventures from the late 20s through the mid-60s ...more
May 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was just okay, nothing more. The descriptions of place and setting were very good, and the two different time lines were interwoven with skill but the story itself just didn't grab me and the ending.... Well, let's just say I was disappointed.
Kelsi H
Please check out all of my reviews at!

What We Become is the epic tale of the love affair between a wealthy, high society woman, Mecha, and a clever thief and con man, Max. In 1928, they meet on a cruise ship heading to Buenos Aires – Max is a charming employee of the cruise line, hired to dance with the single female passengers. Mecha is travelling with her husband, but he likes to watch while she dances the tango with Max. Mecha’s husband is a composer, and he
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Some books, like this one, make people share big thoughts. Because special books like these never make of a review an easy thing. It was elementary for me to start with this short intro, because I feel this review must be as well given as this book was to me and made me feel. And I felt absorbed. So should this review, from the moment I thought of delivering it, rise to the height of this beautiful written work. We talk here El tango de la Guardia Vieja, by Arturo Perez-Reverte.

El Tango de la
Riveting novel that takes the reader from Buenos Aires to Nice to Sorrento, not necessarily in that order. I enjoyed the way the author moved back and forth in time and place rather seamlessly - there was a certain grace in the movement between time and place, fitting given the tango theme. Handsome, suave and charming but penniless Max Costa encounters beautiful, rich, enigmatic and married Mecha Inzunza aboard a ship sailing from Europe to Buenos Aires. They tango…the encounter continues ...more
Max is the consummate con man. Men envy him and women cannot resist him. Born into slums, he extricates himself from that life and lands in the world of the rich and beautiful using his handsome looks and skill dancing the tango to carve out a new life. He's a thief. In the 1920s, he meets Mecha and her rare pearl necklace on a cruise liner. Mecha is elusive and erotic and his world no longer operates as planned. Now Max is a thief and a spy.

Over four decades, Max and Mecha meet just three
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Max Costa signed up as a ballroom dancer for the Cap Polonio in 1928, he didn’t know he would meet a woman who would haunt him for the rest of his life. To be fair to Mecha Inzunza, she didn’t know she was going to meet the love of her life on a trip to Buenos Aires, either. Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s What We Become (translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia) follows Max and Mecha over forty years, from Buenos Aires in 1928 to Nice in 1938 to Sorrento in 1964. What We Become is the story of ...more
Jul 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perfect book to read at airport and on plane. Had I read this book at home I think I may have found it slow. For my travel needs, however, the pace was appreciated, taking me into the atmosphere of the 1920's and allowing me to accept the portrayal of a "gentleman thief" who was no gentleman. We follow the fates of two major characters, a tango of love with years of separation between their dances.
Deborah Bausmith
I gave the book 200+ pages, & it got into intrigue & political details in 2 time frames, and it just became too hard to keep track. And a question I frequently ask is "do I care"--am i invested in the characters to want to continue w/ them? Nope, really didn't in this case.
This is the first book of Reverte I read and apparently his best one based on the reviews. If the latter is true I probably will skip the other novels. The setting and plot is overflowing with clichés from the characters features and development over to the places and locations that the story takes place and the plot development. The two main characters could easily be soap opera ones and the whole story evolves around their love over the course lives (although they have been seen each other for ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed some aspects of this book, but not others. The writing felt stilted to me, which was probably a translation issue. But beyond that, I thought the characters were not fully realized, and were generally unlikeable. The main female character was a walking cliché of sexism, seemingly developed to represent "womanhood" in that way that men idealize and romanticize women. The main male character was a bit more nuanced, but just not very believable. Neither of them lived in the world with an ...more
Catherine Stickann
“What We Become” is a gripping tale of passion renewed through the years. A meeting on a cruise ship sailing from Lisbon to Bueno Aires in 1928 ignites the passionate “lovers” by way of the Tango. She is of high-society and he a talented thief. Their tryst continues again in 1937. The book is full of tension, passion, and chess, yes, chess. It was an exciting read with times of confusion as the author sometimes goes back in time with no notice.
I won this book on Goodreads First Reads Program. I
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoy all of Perez-reverte's work. What a polymath the man is; he writes about drug running, architecture, rare books, art, chess, the life of a high class grifter, all with equal confidence and authority. This one was atmospheric and slower paced, with three story lines unfolding at the same time. Wish my Spanish was better so that I could read his books in the original.
Gail Barrington
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this romantic novel with just a touch of magical realism. Use of time in this long-term love affair was delicately handled. And who won't enjoy a story about a jewel thief and a socialite?
Julia DeBarrioz
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, spain, spies
Tango, a handsome thief, a pearl necklace, spies and chess, sinister Russians and a sweeping love story that spans decades, taking place on an ocean liner en route to Buenos Aires to Italy to the Riviera?

Yes, please.

Picking up a book by Señor Pérez-Reverte can be a bit like asking to be stabbed in the heart with a smile, knowing he'll take you on a poignantly written journey all the way. This book was like that, filled with tension and an aching longing made up of class differences, uncertain
I received an ARC from the publisher.

Max Costa is a scoundrel and a thief but you wouldn’t know it from his refined manner and elegant clothes. We first meet him in 1928 on board the Cap Polonio, a transatlantic luxury liner bound for Buenos Aires. Max is a professional ballroom dancer on the ship and he entertains the unaccompanied young women with his tangos and fox trots. But his work as a ballroom dancer is just a cover for his real profession which his stealing from his rich dance partners.
Rita Berk
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful take on the romantic thief story. Max Costa has made his living by his wits and his charm over the years. This tale jumps around in time recounting his meetings with the love of his life, Mecha. Their subsequent meetings are told in flashbacks, currently they meet in Italy where Mecha's son is involved in a chess match with the Russian Grand Master. Great characters, fun read
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Any book by this revered Spanish author is a treat. He evokes time and place so effortlessly that I have actually wanted to be in the settings of his earlier books, in the beautiful cities, eating in elegant restaurants, being taught to fence by The Fencing Master, or engaging in liaisons with this or that handsome Spaniard. Here we have the mature Arturo Perez-Reverte, no doubt looking back over his own life and adventures as he conjured up Max and Mecha. Only someone with an acute tactile ...more
Christa  Seeley
What We Become is the story of a decade-spanning love affair between Mecha, a wealthy European woman, and Max, a high class Argentinian dancer/thief. They first meet on a cruise ship in 1928, he as an employee, paid to dance with the ladies, she as the wife of a famous composer who is traveling to Buenos Aires, because he wants to write a tango. Their attraction is undeniable from the first time they dance together. They dance flawlessly together, and Max soon finds himself guiding the couple ...more
Mar 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
I loved it. I liked the lead character Max Costa, a "mundane dancer" who makes a living out of his good looks and his charms. I love the way he doesn't feel how powerful he is, because he knows his place in the world and would never believe that he deserved anything more. That is his biggest mistake. He thinks he deserves little because he comes from humble origins, but he doesn't realize that he could do and achieve great things. He never gives himself that opportunity until later in his life, ...more
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Max Costa, a man from the poorest area of Buenos Aires, survives by his wits like Lazarillo de Tormes, falling in love with, in his eyes, a socially inaccessible woman, but with whom he lives passionate encounters in Buenos Aires, Nice and Sorrento, a woman who loves him all his life, and whom he never forgets. He exists always on the edge of the affluent world, taking advantage of it, robbing from it, using his charm, manners and good looks to conquer women and their possessions. The novel ...more
Mar 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Some of the most intriguing fictional characters I've encountered have been in novels by Arturo Perez-Reverte. And, while this was not my favorite among his books, it is still a story that will stay with me.

The special gift this writer possesses is to create characters with complex approaches to life and very distinct moral codes. It fascinates me that Perez-Reverte is able to draw us in to his character's psyche so that we are in sympathy with ( or at least accept) the actions of his
Mar 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: esp, read_2014, xxith
I expected more, actually. Felt like reading a... more aggressive? 'hotter'? version of 'Love in the Times of Cholera' by G.G.Marquez which was, by the way, one of the most boring books I've ever read. In Perez-Reverte's version there was a scene, I admit, [I mean the scene where Max asks Mecha if Jorge is his son and she tells 'no'] when I thought for a while 'wow, not a conventional solution [he's not the father]'... but then everything collapsed. The ending with Soviet investigation and final ...more
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Spanish novelist and ex-journalist. He worked as a war reporter for twenty-one years (1973 - 1994). He started his journalistic career writing for the now-defunct newspaper Pueblo. Then, he jumped to news reporter for TVE, Spanish national channel. As a war journalist he traveled to several countries, covering many conflicts. He put this experience into his book 'Territorio Comanche', focusing on ...more
“Es agradable ser feliz, pensó. Y saberlo mientras lo eres.” 13 likes
“Es la duda la que mantiene joven a la gente. La certeza es como un virus maligno. Te contagia de vejez.” 5 likes
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