by Ricardo Piglia
5 short stories + 1 novella from the Argentine writer/critic whom Roberto Bolaño once memorably lampooned as the St. Paul to Roberto Arlt's Jesus Christ. Of the short stories, I'm most unabashedly evangelistic about "El Laucha Benítez cantaba boleros" ["Mousy Benítez Sang Boleros"] and "La loca y el relato del crimen" ["The Madwoman and the Story of the Crime"]--the former a sordid tale about an ex-heavyweight boxer reduced to eking out a living as "El Vikingo" ["The Viking"] in a traveling lucha libre troupe and the latter a sordid tale about a madwoman who appears to have witnessed the slaying of a prostitute outside a dancing-for-hire cabaret. The novella Nombre falso [Assumed Name; original title: Homenaje a Roberto Arlt or Homage to Roberto Arlt]--a great hoax which in its day was passed off as the critical edition of a just recently discovered/previously unpublished Arlt work but is in large part supposedly "borrowed" from the Spanish translation of Leonid Andreyev's The Dark--is definitely the cherry on the top of this hot fudge sundae of noirish, metafictional underhandedness, though. While both "El Laucha Benítez cantaba boleros" y "La loca y el relato del crimen" inhabit a recognizably post-Arltian spiritual landscape--the latter even includes an inside joke of a description about a reporter whose "concentrado y un poco metafísico" ["concentrated and somewhat metaphysical"] melancholy is said to resemble that of Roberto Arlt's characters (79)--the scene of the crime in Nombre falso shifts from Arlt's so-called "zona de la angustia" ["anguish zone"] to the mean streets of the text itself. For in what's billed as a homage to Roberto Arlt but is also a bottle smashing celebration of the joys of plagiarism, the supporting documentation for Piglia's spurious critical edition includes dialogue from "Arlt" ("¿Qué es robar un banco comparado con fundarlo?" ["What is robbing a bank compared with founding one?"]) mischievously lifted from Bertolt Brecht (111); notes to a rough draft from Arlt which actually are cribbed from Piglia's "La loca y el relato del crimen" (115-116); and an entirely convincing fabricated interview with a real life friend of Arlt's who maintains that Arlt's best work ever was the short story "Escritor fracasado" ["Failed Writer"]: "Eso es lo mejor que Roberto Arlt escribió en toda su vida. La historia de un tipo que no puede escribir nada original, que roba sin darse cuenta: así son todos los escritores en este país, así es la literatura acá. Todo falso, falsificaciones de falsificaciones" ["That's the best thing that Roberto Arlt wrote in all his life. The story of a guy who couldn't write anything original, who robs without realizing it: all the writers in this country are like that, that's what literature is here. All fake, falsifications of falsifications"] (140). Slick.