REVIEW by Willard Manus
to the belly of the beast, says one character in GESELL DOME, the
monumental, blackly comic novel by the Argentinian writer Guillermo Saccomanno.
in question is Villa Gesell, a seaside town located about 200 miles south
of Buenos Aires. It is Saccomanos home town, one which he has fictionalized
in GESELL DOME along with hundreds of its inhabitants. Over the books
616 pages we follow them as they play out their violent, corrupt, sex-crazed
lives. Among the main characters are the Quiroses, descendants of the
lawyer who represented Don Karl, the escaped Nazi who founded the town
after WW II. Known locally as the Kennedys, the Quiroses were brought
up to be top dogs, especially Alejo, the eldest. A lawyer, he was also
a fixer and a schemer, planner of the Villas destinies along with
the Mayor, Alberto (Cachito) Calderon. Smiling, paternal,
a good ol boy politician who does favors for everyone, is
how the author describes him, adding, Dont ask how he made
does have a time frame. It begins in the winter, when the townspeople,
40,000 strong, are trying to survive the cold winds from the sea
that bring raindrops like Thelonius keys. Pummeled by these
ferocious storms, running short of food and cash, the idled locals cant
wait for summer, when they can go back to fleecing the millions of tourists
who flock to the Villas beaches, bars and hotels. The two-month
season is their brief salvation. When its over they will go back
to betraying, robbing, insulting, exploiting and murdering each other,
fueled by booze, drugs, jealousy, starvation and greed.
issues aside, GESELL DOME presents an even more fundamental challenge
for the translator: that of tone, she continues. While Saccomanno
adheres closely to the traditional noir diet of relentless violence and
mayhem, he tempers his tale with outrageous humor and compassion as well.
Much of the grisliness is over-the-top, clear evidence of the authors
background as a writer of comic strips. GESELL DOME is by no means a tale
for the squeamish, but its humor, brutal honesty and the tenderness concealed
in its murky heart make it irresistible, at least to this reader.