Imagining Argentina

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Imagining Argentina [Paperback]

Lawrence Thornton
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 1, 1991
Imagining Argentina is set in the dark days of the late 1970's, when thousands of Argentineans disappeared without a trace into the general's prison cells and torture chambers. When Carlos Ruweda's wife is suddenly taken from him, he discovers a magical gift: In waking dreams, he had clear visions of the fates of "the disappeared." But he cannot "imagine" what has happened to his own wife. Driven to near madness, his mind cannot be taken away: imagination, stories, and the mystical secrets of the human spirit.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This astonishingly proficient and gripping first novel should be required reading for anyone who calls him or herself a responsible citizen. Not only is it masterfully written, with images as sharp as shards of broken glass, but it also carries a message so potent it burns into the conscience. Set in Buenos Aires during the rule of the generals and their brutal policy of abducting and obliterating those who opposed them, the narrative tells of playwright Carlos Rueda, who suddenly finds himself with the power to "see" the disappeared ones and their fates. In the tradition of magical realism, by rendering almost palpable the sense of unreality that bizarre events evoke, Thornton makes Carlos's gift entirely convincing. Carlos's power announces itself when his journalist wife Cecilia is abducted; he uses it to bring news of their loved ones to the courageous mothers who march in the Plaza de Mayo in an effort to make the generals acknowledge their missing kin. Thornton conveys the fates of the disappeared in hauntingly credible scenes, at the same time providing a mesmerizing portrait of the xenophobic ideology that allows the generals to commit any brutality in the name of patriotism. In spite of his personal tragedy, which is compounded by two additional bitter blows, Carlos's faith in the power of reason remains strong. "There are two Argentinas," he says,"the regime's travesty of it, and the one we have in our hearts." Eventually the pure power of his imagination wins out over the obscene power of the ruling junta; the generals flee and some of the "disappeareds" come home. "It is not often that you see life and fiction take each other by the hand and dance," says this novel's narrator. The judge at the trial of the generals cries out: "Nunca mas!" Thornton's achievement is to make us see the power inherent in books such as this one, books that carry a message of hope to those who will read, believe, act and survive.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

During the recent military rule in Argentina, outspoken journalist Cecilia Rueda is among the "disappeared," one of the thousands of prisoners tortured and frequently murdered by a regime that then denies their existence. After her disappearance, Cecilia's playwright husband Carlos discovers that he has a gift: when someone recounts the last known details of a disappeared, Carlos sees that person's present situation in a vision that released prisoners verify as accurate. Narrated by the Ruedas' friend, Martin Benn, in whose terse style both atrocities and surreal tales are effectively conveyed, this work has valid moral groundsfaith in the imagination's ability to sustain lifethat nevertheless cannot undermine the horrors of material reality that Benn describes. Mollie Brodsky, English Dept., Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, N.J.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 214 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reissue edition (November 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553345796
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553345797
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #387,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very realistic September 22, 2004
By Marga
I wanted to address the comments of people who said this novel was not historically accurate. I write this as an Argentina Human Rigths Activist and the founder of Proyecto Desaparecidos, [...] . It's exactly the opposite, reading the story was as if the Ruedas clan had been introduced into a completely real situation. The story starts with a real event, the forced-disappearance of several students who were lobbying for student-priced bus fare. Cecilia, Carlos Ruedas' wife is a journalist with the real-life newspaper La Opinión, the only newspaper (save for English language Buenos Aires Herald) that actually dared to write about the repression and the disappeared at that time. In response, she's disappeared herself (and the account of her disappearance comes straight from the testimonies of such events) and taken to the ESMA where she's tortured and treated in a "typical" manner for the time. In his search for her, Carlos comes into contact with many real-life people, most of whom are given pseudonyms in the book. For example Mario Rabán, alias "Gustavo Santos", is a navy man who in the book infiltrates the families of the disappeared and plans their kidnaping at the Church of the Holy Cross, where they met. In real life, Alfredo Astiz, alias "Gustavo Niño", was a navy man who infiltrated the families of the disappeared and planned their kidnaping at the Santa Cruz Church. Both in the book and real life, Rabán/Astiz also shoots Dagmar Hageling (her real name).

The types of stories told by Carlos about what happened to the disappeared are very realistic, though perhaps there is a greater rate of escapes and liberations in his stories than in real life. Still, most seem to have been taken out of real testimonies.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imagining Argentina- I strongly recommend it December 14, 1999
I read this book, Imagining Argentina, for a class on conscience and political struggle. Of the books we read (Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee, In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, and others), this book quickly emerged among my classmates as a favorite. This is in part due to the fact that it is an easy read. The language flows smoothly, unburdened with cumbersome wording. Also, the crafting of the story is quite artful. Imagining Argentina takes its material from historical events. Argentina's so-called "dirty war" was an internal conflict, waged by the military government on the people. Anyone who publicly decried the generals or their policies risked being disappeared. The main character of Thornton's novel, Carlos Rueda, is a playwright who discovers a gift for seeing both past and future events through the eyes of the disappeared after his own wife is taken away. People start coming to him to hear the stories of their disappeared loved ones. Though many of the characters are fictional, the stories Rueda tells are taken from actual experiences of victims of the dirty war. Thus, Thornton blends mysticism with factual information to create a novel that is both a compelling read and a moving account of Argentina's dark, not-so-distant past.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Magical December 18, 2003
In this masterfully spun and tragic tale, Lawrence Thronton captures the very essence of the genre of mystical Latin American literature. In an homage to the works of authors like Marques and Allende, the author blends the fantastic and the deadly real, giving the reader a heart wrenching view of Aregentina during the military junta. Thornton, himself not Latin, brings to life the pain and hopelessness of those whose relatives would disapear under the military's rule and who had no one to whom they could turn.
In colorful language that seems to flow off the page and into your heart, he creates a world so real that you feel like you know the depth that these characters suffer. Magical realism can be extremely dificult to write as it often fails to hold the reader. Exactly the opposite is true of this wonderful novel.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant and inspiring novel, Lawrence Thornton's "Imagining Argentina" effectively portrays the turmoil and struggle in Argentina in the 1970's as people were taken from their loved ones by corrupt government officials and became members of "the disappeared". Using exceptional and eloquent writing techniques, Thornton is able to portray a story of love, imagination, despair and most provocatively, faith. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this novel, is its ability to establish a relationship between the reader and the protagonist, Carlos Rueda. So deeply intriguing and stimulating is this central character, that the reader cannot help but communicate with him, by sympathizing the losses of his wife and daughter, understanding his desperation and desperation and inhaling his words of wisdom and bold faith in humanity. The story emphasizes on the theme of faith and the power of the human spirit. Carlos' unbreakable belief in his wife's survival is never tarnished nor questioned, as he able to unite a lost community and bring hope that their loved ones will return someday. The only negative aspects of this novel is that sometimes the book is so plotted out that it feels like you are watching a movie rather than reading a book. The novel also starts off slow but picks up very quickly towards the middle. I highly recommend this novel, "Imagining Argentina" and hope that it moves you just as much as it has moved me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Ford Falcon as weak Raptor
A very metaphorical story of how truth speaks to power; first name the oppressors and speak to and about them. Then imagine the alterity of living. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Donald Hassemer
5.0 out of 5 stars "Imagination can also be a powerful weapon" Must read book to find out...
This book is honestly amazing. Usually when students are supposed to read certain material they do it out of obligation and not for their own will of reading. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jaqueline Hernandez
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but challenging to the feint hearted
Did not know about the struggles of Argentina before reading this. The book was so compelling that I had to investigate more.
Published 13 months ago by Byron V. T. Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
Like the book so much, I had to watch the movie. The movie stayed fairly close to the is just that the film explained the situations better
Published 14 months ago by gene
4.0 out of 5 stars Great writing of an era and situation when not living in the country.
Hard book to get into. Once captured hard to put down. A very sad time in Argentina history. The characters weave an intricate tale of such tragic times.
Published 15 months ago by T. Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars A Novel of the Dirty War
What could life have been like for the families of the disappeared during Argentina's Dirty War? This short novel, provides some possible answers. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Loves the View
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the squeamish.
Wonderful book. Searing and sensitive. A friend who lived in Argentina at that time says it captures the truth of those days.
Published 16 months ago by ckpdvm
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good read
Set in the Argentina of the late 1970's when the country was ruled by the iron hand of the military junta. Read more
Published on July 4, 2012 by G. Torres
4.0 out of 5 stars This story will stay with you.
I read this novel in college, over four years ago. I still remember it's vivid imagery & haunting tale. Read more
Published on July 18, 2008 by C. Hadad
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING...
This is one of my favorite books. Engrossing. Prepared to be stolen from your daily life until you finish it.
Published on February 15, 2008 by Smac
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