Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Sergio Chejfec: The Planets

Mythili G. Rao reviews Sergio Chejfec's "The Planets".

The Planets considers the impact of friendship—and its loss—in cosmic terms. The novel unfolds in Buenos Aires, in the shadow of M's sudden abduction during the state campaign of terrorism of the 1970s. Chejfec's narrator—a peculiarly opaque figure who is at once idiosyncratic and exacting—traces his emotional trajectory from the moment a mutual friend calls to let him know about M's kidnapping ("This friend, named A, sounded like an idiot.  How could he say 'to let me know?' (Someone, someone else was speaking through him; he could not be saying that.") he remembers) to his chance encounter, years later, with M's mother on calle Acevdo She has been hollowed out from years of grief and they do not have much to say to one another, but their meeting is laden with symbolic significance.
Years before, M's disappearance in the midst of Argentina's "Dirty War" had paralyzed his parents; they could respond only with "disorientation, dishevelment and a particular vacillation." In the end they are unable to organize a search for their son. Because of his parents' passivity, M's name—which the reader never learns—is absent from newspaper accounts of the missing, or from flyers or banners rallying relatives of "the disappeared"; the anonymity only deepens the sense of loss.

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