Book Notes: Edurne Portela’s Mejor la ausencia

Edurne Portela was a professor of Latin American literature and specialized in the Argentinian novel on the Dirty War. Then she quit her job and became a full-time writer. This is important because her novel Mejor la ausencia is extraordinary similar – in terms of the plot, the narrative style, the protagonist, the choppy sentences that drive me nuts – to a novel on the Argentinian Dirty War by novelist Paula Varsavsky.

Like Varsavsky’s Nadie alzaba la voz, Portela’s novel is a Bildungsroman and a very conventional one. The protagonist is entitled, immature, self-infantilizing and lacking in insight to a degree one usually only expects to see mentally disabled people. What makes the novel attractive in spite of all this are hints at the presence of ETA somewhere around the plot. The idea that the novel promotes is that nationalist terrorism is a result of individual psychopathologies. 

I’m inured to the protagonists of contemporary female Bildungsromane, so I enjoyed the novel. I warn you, though, you might go loopy the first couple of times you meet all these Lulus, Natalias, and Beatrices who comprehend and describe their reality worse than a regular 3-year-old and pretend to be cute little girls in pigtails well past the age of thirty.

A good novel, though, seriously. I hope it gets translated. 


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