A debut novel about a refugee of Argentina’s Dirty War who returns to Buenos Aires, where ghosts of his past, including his great lost love, guide him through a nightmarish labyrinth of memory, guilt, and loss.
...a debut novel as impressive as they come. Tough, wily, dreamlike ... What makes Loedel’s tale so unusual is the fluid way it shifts back and forth between the real and the spectral ... the tangles of action, intention and self-deception he evokes are spellbinding in ways that will hit home in any society where democracy, the rule of law and the very concept of the truth are in peril.
In a commendable display of chutzpah, he has written an Argentine Gothic ... Loedel’s sense of obligation to the real Isabel might explain why Hades, Argentina can feel dutiful, even workmanlike in places as it catalogs the depravities of the regime she fought ... Loedel’s exhaustive account of the junta’s crimes might be a homage to the long chronicle of violence against women in Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666 as well as to the memory of his half sister and her cause. Alas, it doesn’t always serve the story. Still, it’s fun and sad to follow Tomás and Isabel past the forgotten equestrian statues and dingy cafes of Buenos Aires.
Loedel’s family history, detailed in an afterword, equips him to explore these issues with a fluency that captures the nuances of the question. It is not always 'us versus them.' It is the 'me versus me' that plays out in individuals as they wrestle with what it means to do the right thing ... Loedel draws the line of complicity ever closer to Orilla, asking readers to consider at what point the witness becomes victimizer. Loedel never resorts to caricatures of evil villains. Each of the men who works at ESMA is shown as an individual who counts himself as a good family man ... Loedel continually works to erase the notion that only the evil commit evil acts, which adds to the horror. How do 'ordinary men' become instruments of a repressive state?