Siempre la misma música*
Algaida • 2006
Translation: Helen O'Sullivan
Returning from one of his many failures, el Negro has a
conversation with el Polaco at the rear of “Café y
Billares”, the café and snooker hall. A conversation like
many others in the same room that smelt of bleach and brooms... A
conversation to pass time as the dominoes drew out patterns on the
green table-cover, always pointing out the same loser. In the distance,
the engines of lorries and sports cars roared, the ghosts in the chupaderos howled
and machine guns chattered...
From the moment el Negro sits down opposite el Polaco ,
the conversations, like verbal knife wounds, turn into an endless,
revolving duel at the rear of the shack, echoing out to areas of
lost streets, to the wastelands and the rooms of up-market apartments.
This recreates a continuous line that goes on unstoppably within
this lunfardo road movie, tracing the lives of characters
born on the edge of society.
In spite of this, these consecutive anecdotes, delivered at a frantic
pace, tangled between the dominoes, do not mark the pivotal developments
in the novel; however, they do continuously describe and indicate
future twists and turns in the plot and also the constant undertones
floating in the background like the music of a violin, which according
to el Negro is played by an angel. In fact, the most significant
parts of the novel are the silences between each domino and between
each game. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that one of the most important
characters, el Serio , does not utter a single word in the
entire story. El Serio is the worrying shadow of that angel,
playing out their destinies.
The syncopated rhythm of the prose unremittingly imposes a sense
of urgency on the reader from the very beginning. There is an electrifying
tension, which contrasts sharply with the drawn-out conversations
between el Polaco and el Negro , like a teacher
trying to instruct a slow-witted, scatterbrained child. El Negro is
indeed a complex character: he is an over-grown child for those sudden
passions, which bring to mind la Uruguay ; he is an
overly-motivated rebel with a boss he has always hated and he is
a gambler who never wins at the table.
Argemí is fond of this type of main character who always
wants to rise above his misfortune, to fight to escape from cruel
fate and from being a prisoner of destiny. The author's use of the
melancholic certainty of the inevitable is intentional as is the
controlled rage in the novel, which likens the protagonists to the
heroes of a Greek tragedy. Nonetheless, although he may flirt with
drama and the appeal of the theatre, the author, like any good Argentine,
steers clear of overly melodramatic and uplifting themes. Nihilistic
in style, Argemí balances out those euphoric moments - in
which the hero is heading for the retribution of a “happy ending”,
redeeming the pariahs of the land - with the treacherous blow of
a crestfallen virtuoso.
* Always the same music.