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The Torturer's Wife Paperback – December 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Glave's second collection is a disquieting, graphic, semiexperimental compendium examining violence and ignorance in and out of wartime. After opening with a contemporary relationship drama, Glave makes the jarring transition to armed conflicts, invasion and genocide. What most unifies these works is what's left unsaid—secrets are a constant, and there are virtually no names. Glave's style, full of interruptions, ellipses, unconventional text treatments and poemlike breaks, sends each story whirling thickly toward its end: in the title story, a woman called She is haunted by grotesque nightmares of dismembered body parts raining on her house and garden, after discovering her high-ranking husband's wartime atrocities. In the allegorical Milk/Sea; Sentience, the dreams of a sleeping village of women heal war's wounds. Between takes a step back to focus on a couple, telling the story of two racist gay men in an interracial relationship; cleverly, Glave refers to both as one of them. Laced with grisly details, this daring but uneven collection may not find a wide audience, but makes an intriguing experiment in post-postmodern war fiction. (Nov.)
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Thomas Glave doesn't disappoint by forcing the reader to immerse themselves into a fragmented often deeply esoteric exoticism that borders on psychosis as is the case of the title story "The Torturer's Wife".
He in a sense also invites the reader to understand the pain and focus of each character but leaves out racial and cultural descriptors to force the reader into a more universal comprehension, which I applaud him for, but secretly I disdain, because I wanted to make his stories personal and intimate to me.
This is not a book that makes for light reading or something you could ever fully discuss in a book club. Like Morrison, it make take rereading to fully understand and consume it whole.
The title story focuses on a privileged wife who has discovered that her husband is involved with the torture and death of political prisoners. In the 1970s the Argentinian right-wing military cracked down on dissidents; thousands were tortured, drugged and flown out to be dumped into the ocean. In Glave's story the voices of these victims rise out of the ocean to assail this woman's ears and their body parts fall from the sky to litter her home and garden. More than the survivors of the violent political conflicts portrayed in heart-rending flashing glimpses, these stories are populated with the dead who have been swept aside, their tongues cut out and corpses annihilated. Glave manages to not only give a voice to these casualties of history, but a face and a body so that their physical bulk cannot be denied or ignored.
While many of the stories refer to specific struggles in time of war, others such as "Between" and "South Beach , 1992" speak about interpersonal conflicts between lovers, and specifically troubles which occur within gay relationships. The barriers of racial and class difference are explored just as sensual discoveries are made. Fear and disgust are revealed when it's discovered a partner is HIV+. These intensely-felt intimate moments between men reveal darker truths about their feelings and often-ignored divisions within the gay community.
Glave's narratives seamlessly interweave components of speech with descriptions of place and the internal thoughts of the characters. His olfactory-driven prose give an immediacy to the time, location and physicality of his characters, making his stories come vibrantly alive. Many of these stories explore what it means when the terms in which a person defines herself or himself are shattered, leaving them grasping for language with which to articulate who they are. Identity is divided in order for the individual to cope with the extremity of emotion and maintain aspects of themselves they don't want to lose. Glave employs radically diverse styles and structures to describe this process making his writing some of the most exciting and spirited I've read for a long time.