I first heard about Fogwill from Javier Molea at McNally Robinson, who insisted that I read him. (I think the phrase Javier kept repeating was “mind-blowing.”) It was a great coincidence to find that Serpent’s Tail had just published Malvinas Requiem (Los Pichiciegos), and an even greater coincidence to find out that the fantastic Michael Gaeb is Fogwill’s agent . . .
Anyway, E.J. referenced this earlier, but I’m planning on reviewing this remarkable book later this week. What really struck me about the Guardian article though was it’s cultural specificity re: the Falklands conflict. It’s a truism to state that jacket copy is written with a specific audience in mind, but it’s really interesting to compare the Serpent’s Tail copy to that of the agent. . . .
First, Serpent’s Tail:
June 1982, The Falklands/Malvinas.
Twenty-four young Argentine soldiers who have deserted the army spend the last weeks of the conflict hiding out in a cave. Inside their refuge they listen to the radio, stockpile supplies and exchange stories; outside, under cover of night, they trade with the Argentine Quartermaster and with the British. Looking out over the bleak landscape, after weeks of grey skies and horizontal snow, one of them remarks that ‘you’d have to be English to want this’.
Catch-22 meets Dispatches in the Falkland Islands—Malvinas Requiem is a shocking, subtle and superbly written commentary on the utter futility of war. Darkly comic and deeply affecting, the book contributed to the defeat of the military junta in Argentina and, 25 years after its first publication, still continues to make waves.
And Michael Gaeb’s description:
Los Pichiciegos is an astonishing tale derived from the Falklands/Malvinas conflict in 1982. The Pichis are a group of Argentine deserters, who have established a subterranean settlement. They are maroons who trade with both sides (British and Argentinean) as they seek the kerosene, sugar, cigarettes, and so on that they need to survive. In this work Fogwill shows the dissolution of virtues in a world where only survival counts and the loss of national identity in the face of war. He intentionally didn’t write a story of heroes or a reflection on war or pacifism but an unsympathetic depiction of the harsh conditions of survival. In the tradition of Bioy Casares’ novel La invención de Morel, Fogwill creates a narrative universe between reality and fantasy.
Here in America, the Falklands War doesn’t hold the same fascination as it obviously does in Great Britain, but it’s interesting to me how much more Falklands specific the first description sounds in comparison to the second. To me, Michael’s copy plays up the literary side of things (and the sort of absurdity) rather than emphasizing the specificity of the book.
(As a big Bioy Casares fan—which all Lost addicts should be—it’s that reference that caught my eye.)
It’s not as if these descriptions are incongruent or anything, it’s just curious to me from a marketing perspective to see these cultural differences play themselves out.
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