REVIEW by Willard Manus
Life under fascism is laid bare in "77," the new novel by Guillermo Saccomanno (translated from the Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger and published by Open Letter Books). Saccomanno is the Argentinian author of several previous novels, one of which, "Gesell Dome," was highly praised in these pages. Both "Gesell Dome" and "77" were awarded the Hammett Award by the International Association of Crime Writers.
is code for 1977, when Argentina was suffering under a military dictatorship
headed by General Videla, a Hitler clone who ruled with brute force. Backed
by the USA (Kissinger advised "a swift extermination of the insurgency"),
Videla created a totalitarian state which tried to control every aspect
of life. With the complicity of Argentinian business, labor and political
organizations, Videla and his secret police infiltrated the press, schools,
churches and the arts, crushing all signs of free-thinking and dissent.
hero, but a hero nonetheless, one who battles desperately "to keep
a callus from forming over his heart," he befriends a young radical
couple on the run from the police, and also volunteers to try and track
down one of the disappeared, the son of an upstair's neighbor. Although
he thinks of himself as just a witness, someone "merely interested
in finding out how stories work out," he ends up risking his life
on behalf of his fellow citizens.