Juan Pablo Canala, in his admirable and erudite examination of the literary invention of the Buenos Aires detective, Bulldogs and wolves, It shows the intimate relationship that the detective literature of Río de la Plata maintained from its beginnings in the middle of the 19th century with the press. The first authors of the then folletinesco genre, such as Eduardo Gutiérrez, were also journalists and "fed", says Canala, "the events narrated in the police press." His literary influences were French: Eugène Sue, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and an Edgar Alan Poe Frenchified by Baudelaire.
Under the influence of Borges, a great reader of detective literature in the English language, and its creation in 1945, together with Adolfo Bioy Casares, from the successful series The seventh circle, the Argentine authors of police novels discovered that the detective argument could move away from the documented reality and get closer to the problems of formal logic. Borges gave the example with stories like Death and the compass Y Emma Zunz, and his disciples in that vein were Marco Denevi, María Angélica Bosco, Santiago Dabove, the Uruguayan Enrique Amorim, the same Bioy Casares and several others. Some as Rodolfo Walsh in its Variations in red, they rehearsed that reasoned style of police narration, but they also resumed and deepened the tradition established by Gutiérrez of choosing as a starting point crimes of the journalistic chronicle. Particularly in the case of Walsh, in later works as Operation massacre, Satanowsky case YWho killed Rosendo? the chronicle itself becomes a literary text in which the true events are counted without further fictitious elaboration, taking the facts of everyday reality and resorting to fiction techniques to narrate them. This last strategy is superficially related to the hard-boiled school of the North American police fiction faced with the novel of classic detective of the England of the Thirties. Referring to these two tendencies, the scholar Anne Lafontaine commented: "The detective today has to be a kind of Hercules, fighting the Hydra of Lerna, each head a seemingly insoluble problem, or a real and atrocious crime."
The military dictatorship of the seventies gave Argentine writers a historical ground in which the moral obligation to witness the terrible events authorized a police narrative that, without necessarily accurately tracing the events, echoed the horror through stories that, although they were invented, they were deeply rooted in what all the readers knew had happened, fictions that Dante would have called "non-false inventions". Among the many works that deal with events located in those years of blood stand out The penultimate conquest of the Angel, by Elvira Orphée; The needle in the haystack, by Ernesto Mallo; Big hell, by Guillermo Martínez; Twenty years old, Luz, by Elsa Osorio; The end of the story, by Liliana Heker; One night, by Leopoldo Brizuela; Moral Sciences, by Martín Kohan; The Canary, by Carlos Bernatek, and now Do not ask for anything, by Reynaldo Sietecase.
Sietecase's novel intertwines two narrations: that of a journalist, the Tano Gentili, who seeks to investigate the suspicious deaths of several Argentine military officers accused of committing atrocities during the dictatorship, and that of a lawyer, Mariano Márquez, with a peculiar code of ethics, whom a deputy asks to investigate the military accused of murdering his parents. As the two investigations are developed, without ever overcoming, the reader witnesses a political violence uninterrupted for decades in Argentina, but also, in the case of Gentili, in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, as if the fall of the Argentine dictatorship (and that of the various other dictatorships in Latin America) would have been only a conventional ending, part of the fictions of history, not of reality, and that until the causes of infamy are truly eradicated , this will continue to resurface periodically, as the heads of the Hydra de Lerna mentioned by Lafontaine.
The style of Sietecase is concise, hard, without waste. It is hardly allowed to decorate the end of a chapter with a brief sentence, almost an aphorism: "Kiss, therefore I am. It's not love, but it reaches. " Or "It's just a minor change in the calendar. Death further or closer. " Or this admirably concludes the novel: "There are different ways to escape punishment and oblivion is one of the most refined." That puritanism of Sietecase corresponds only to the style of writing. The content is the opposite, of an exacerbated baroque, an almost unbearable violence. The characters can not be easily understood by the reader: they change their judgment and focus constantly, they are unbridled and retained at the same time, of a morality that is frequently turbid or at least not exemplary. They commit disgusting acts and actions of saints. They have something of the Stevensonian heroes, of Long John Silver, the bloodthirsty traitor and also the honest buccaneer, or of the atrocious Mr. Hyde, who is at the same time the good Dr. Jekyll. We can not say if Gentili or Martinez are decent and honest men, but they are heroic and memorable.
There is in this a sort of inverted mirror. The story (according to the Cervantes phrase made famous by Borges) is the mother of truth; what we count ends up being what we believe has really happened. If under the official celebrations of liberal victories the infamous codes that justified the kidnappings, the tortures, the robbery of children, the bloody censorship, the contempt for the culture and the citizen ethics are still alive; If the fiction of what we call our democracy can hide the survival of those other infernal dogmas, explicit fictions like this one from Sietecase reveal, implicitly, the truth of our time.
Do not ask for anything. Reynaldo Sietecase. Alfaguara, 2018. 256 pages. 17 euros