miércoles, 20 de noviembre de 2013

Evita vive

"Evita vive"
by Néstor Perlongher
Argentina, 1975

"All the machos in this country ought to envy you, kid; you just gone done fucking Eva Perón" ["Todos los machos del país te envidirían, chiquito; te acabás de coger a Eva Perón"] (32).  In the event that it isn't yet clear, Néstor Perlongher's 1975 short story "Evita vive" ["Evita Lives"], a sordid and way pre-"God Save the Queen" triptych in which Eva Perón, or an all too lifelike ghostly revenant, makes three successive three-page appearances blowing a sailor, interrupting a drug bust on behalf of some transvestite dopers, and getting fucked by a male hustler in a seedy hotel when not actively fingering herself or being fingered by others, could have been tailor made for the Argentinean Literature of Doom.  So what makes the text "transgressive" and not just an exercise in dubious taste?  For one thing, it's written with real brio: the conversational tone, the slang, even the characters' senses of humor and petty jealousies all read as if somebody were telling you the story over beers in a bar or something.  For another, the evocation of Evita isn't at all predictable or one-sided despite the reverse mythification process her character's subjected to.  Walking a fine line between edgy black humor and elegy, for example, Perlongher has one character describe his first run in with the former first lady, in real life a victim of cancer at the age of 33 in 1952, as follows: "Y era ella nomás, inconfundible, con esa piel brillosa, brillosa, y las manchitas del cáncer por abajo, que  --la verdad-- no le quedaban nada mal" ["And it was really her, unmistakable, with that lustrous, lustrous skin and the cancer splotches down below, which--in truth--didn't look bad on her at all"]  (24).  Pushing the envelope after recounting his encounter with Evita, the hotel room hustler adds: "En la pieza había como un olor a muerta que no me gustó nada" ["There was something like the smell of a dead woman in the room, which I didn't care for at all"] (32).  Too over the top for you?  I understand.  On the other hand, it's hard not to sympathize with either the fictional Evita when one character tells her that sailors can't be counted on ("Con los generales tampoco, me acuerdo que dijo ella, y estaba un poco triste" ["'Neither can generals,' I remember her saying, and she was a little sad"]) (25) or with Perlongher himself when he lines up "la yegua" ["the old bag"] (28) in his more politically-oriented satire sights.  A messianic Evita at the drug pad: "Grasitas, mis grasitas, Evita lo vigila todo, Evita va a volver por este barrio y por todos los barrios para que no les hagan nada a sus descamisados...  Ahora debo irme, debo volver al cielo" ["People, my people, Evita watches over everything, Evita's going to return to this neighborhood and to all the neighborhoods so that nothing bad happens to her poor, Peronist children...  But now I should go, I ought to return to heaven"] (29).  Ironically for such a scandalous, sexually in your face tale, though, Perlongher--"militante trotskista, delegado estudiantil y uno de los fundadores del Frente de Liberación Homosexual en la Argentina" ["a militant Trotskyist, student delegate, and one of the founders of the Homosexual Liberation Front in Argentina"] (biographical info lifted from the inside front cover flap of this edition)--chose to leave an explanatory note appended to the original work stating that "estos textos juegan en torno a la literalidad de esa consigna, haciendo aparecer a Evita 'viviendo' situaciones conflictivas y marginales" ["these texts play on the notion of the literality of that slogan (i.e 'Evita Lives,' which was employed by the Peronists), making Evita appear 'living out' tense and marginal situations"] (33).  In other words, I await your lack of comments in response to this post.
Néstor Perlongher (1949-1992)
Perlongher, Néstor.  Evita vive y otros relatos.  Buenos Aires: Santiago Arcos editor, 2009, 21-33.
Image at top
"Dios salve a Evita" ["God Save Evita']
artist unknown

4 comentarios:

  1. This sounds strangely more like the Evita I always imagined. But then again, that could say more about me than about either her or the story under discussion. One more thing to put on the read pile. Is there a translation to be found?

    1. One of the more astonishing feats of Perlongher's brief tale, Richard, is how true to life so many of the more squalid scenes seem atmosphere-wise. Of course, I guess it helps that the narrators are such convincing lowlifes themselves. Not sure if this has been translated or not--would guess not, but sometimes short story translations appear in unofficial versions online (will let you know if I hear of anything).

  2. You have been making a strong case that Doom is not an exaggeration.

    1. That hasn't been my goal exactly, Tom, but I know what you mean. It's true! The funny thing is I haven't even gotten around yet to my first Lamborghini of the year, Echeverría's "The Slaughterhouse," or some other fairly surefire examples of anticipated Doom that I've got up my sleeves. Guess Bolaño knew what he was talking about.