Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Bride from Odessa by Edgardo Cozarinsky

The name "Odessa" makes you think of Chekhov, involuntarily inviting a comparison that would make most writers’ work shrivel; but not Edgardo Cozarinsky’s.

He was born in Buenos Aires in 1939 and has lived in Paris since 1974. He is best known for his subtle, semi-documentary films, and has written a previous collection of short stories and prize-winning essays. From his name and these stories one may deduce rather more: that his parents emigrated to Argentina as refugees from the Europe of the dictators, probably from Hitler; that his roots are in Central Europe, perhaps Vienna, perhaps Budapest, possibly more remotely, the Crimea or the Ukraine; and that he is, probably only on one side of his family, Jewish.

He writes in Spanish and the blurb states "his stories belong to spirit of Borges and to a great Argentine cosmopolitan tradition: that of the uprooted exile, the plaything of history." This seems fair comment, though the stories are not clever like Borges’s. Yet they do recall that line of his about Buenos Aires: that the city where the other side of the street hadn’t been built, symbol of an incomplete society.

The stories are not anecdotes. That’s to say, they couldn’t be told in other words without dissolving. They exist only as they are written, unlike, say, some of Maugham’s. You might call them mood pieces, except that this suggests a certain insubstantiality, which would be misleading. An exile is someone who has lost everything except his past, which for that very reason is more alive in his memory than in the memories of those who have never been uprooted. The exile lives in no community except that of the dead and the disinherited. He knows complete uncertainty, the absence of any imaginable future, and yet continues to live from day to day.
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