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On the last pages, he looks at this rich nation, so quickly ruined it required redemption before it was fully born, and prophesies: "The cycles of power and cruelty would come around again.

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The recent memories would be erased, the tens of thousands gone, my own two brothers among them. Lawrence Thornton opens "Naming the Spirits" with a kind of antithesis to Mr. Unger's lament.

Here a group of the dead declare that the perpetrators of the dirty war "overlooked the fact that grief abhors a vacuum. It never occurred to them that even though we were gone we remained alive in the memories of our families. Thornton is determined to offer as much hope as violence in his work, no matter how much magic that may require.

They follow her mute trek to an apartment building in Buenos Aires, the Villa Deamicis, hoping she will come out of her emotional coma to tell their stories and lead others to their grave. The residents of the Villa De amicis include an astrologer, a teacher, a womanizing painter and, most important, two doctors, Roberto and Mercedes Cristiani, whose daughter Ana Maria is among the disappeared. They attempt to bring the girl out of her trance. In the same dangerously half-realized democracy described by Mr.

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Unger, Roberto Cristiani works for the Ezekiel Squad, trying to find the dead and gather forensic evidence against their political killers. The girl makes spooky efforts toward her own revitalization, launching origami birds from the Villa Deamicis's balconies. These birds travel miraculously over some of the key sites in the story, including the mass grave of those who were killed when she was wounded. Thornton is capable of some lovely effects referring, at one point, to "the grief which held her like a setting does a gemstone" , but his magic realism never quite loses the feeling of a knockoff.

At its worst, it's like a tango learned at dancing school. There is a similar generic thinness to the imagery, whose vehicles often seem like emblems from a travel brochure. A disappointment is "as bitter.


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Historical novelists, from Sir Walter Scott to Gore Vidal, have never been able to travel back to the times they write about; readers accept this as a simple law of literary physics. And on rare occasions, when only geography is involved, we are sufficiently dazzled to wonder if the writer wasn't lucky to have had his imagination kept free of direct experience: "Robinson Crusoe" and "Amerika" may be better books for Defoe's not having been shipwrecked and Kafka's never crossing the Atlantic.

But there is usually more to be said for being there. Thornton's Argentina feels like a tragic myth, whereas Mr.

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Unger's feels, more appropriately, like history that is still news. If Mr. Thornton's country is a sort of whirling purgatory, Mr. Unger's tantalizes the American reader's imagination as a real place to be found at the end of an hour flight.

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Books Strangled by History. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers.

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To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems. While every character may have their own motivation of joining the party, one thing's for sure, they all seem to have it in for Joseph. This comic is a mysterious romantic comedy with themes of pop culture, music, classic video games, and even a hint of magic lore.

In this universe, animals can talk, whales can fly, and hats can have a deviously snarky attitude towards humans. Convert currency. Add to Basket.


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    Strangled Silence

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