And Other Stories Spanish-Language Reading Group discussion

Bruzzone - Los Topos (The Moles)

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message 1: by Stefan (new)

Stefan Tobler | 12 comments Hi,
Carlos Gamerro ( - who read for our Jericho Session in June - was very impressed with this book.
Anyone reading / want to read this book?

message 2: by Carolina (new)

Carolina (carolinao) | 1 comments Hi! I will be happy to give it a go, if no one else wants to. Just in time for holiday read!

message 3: by Jethro (new)

Jethro Soutar | 3 comments Ok, well I read this a few weeks ago now and decided not to post at the time but as nobody else has commented...

Some Argentinian novels (as well as many Latam films) are very good at examining politics without preaching or spelling things out. Things happen in the background, taken for granted by the protagonists, emphasising the misery and damage of living under an oppressive regime. Or sometimes politics seem to be absent but all choices made by the characters come as a consequence of or are influenced by their unjust circumstances.

In Los Topos something similar appears to be happening. The narrator is raised by his grandparents because his parents were killed by the regime. His girlfriend Romina is a member of HIJOS, activists who fight for the rights of the children of the disappeared. Maira, his lover, is a transvestite prostitute working as an undercover agent killing policemen, taking revenge on torturers from the past.

Everything is linked to or touched by the dictatorship. However, everything in the book is so confused that it is far from clear what the message is. Presumably, the idea is supposed to be that a repressed climate, or one in which it is impossible to ever learn the truth, will inevitably make people go mad; that a rein of terror leaves a legacy whereby everyone is paranoid and distrustful.

However, due to the childlike tone, short concentration span and immaturity of the narrator, as well as the rambling directionless narrative, the message I was left with was that the country should just bloody well grow up, get a grip and get over it. Which is surely not what the author intended.

I appreciate that the author is, like the character, the son of disappeared parents, though I didn't know that at the time I read it. In any case it should have no baring on whether I liked the book or not.

And I did not. Regardless of what the book is trying to say, the dreamlike narrative tired my patience. A breezy start promised much but as the story went off at tangent after tangent, I cared less and less about the characters (or at least the narrator as most others come and go every twenty pages) and grew bored. The book is supposed to be, like the characters (and like politics and society), confused, but while I can recognise that as a structural devise, even a statement, it made for a tiresome read.

I hope others fair better and can persuade me that I'm being unfair, that I'm an ignorant fool and missed the whole point, that it was just the wrong book at the wrong time (I'm on a bad run at the moment).

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