Liliana Heker’s El fin de la historia (The End of the Story), is a novel about the Argentine “Dirty War” told through three women: Leonora, a revolutionary in Argentina who is captured, tortured, then sells out her ideals to save herself and her daughter, falling in love with one of her captors and instigating a pr campaign to improve Argentina’s image; Diana, an aspiring writer trying to tell the story of growing up with Leonora, their dreams, etc., and the moment that death became an integral part of Argentine life; and Hertha, a famous writer who tells the story of Diana trying to tell her story.

This is a complex book with a complex set of goals. In her own words, Heker set out to answer a number of questions in writing this novel.

“How to describe this betrayal, how to describe a torturer and his own view of the truth and with what other truths should one confront him? I have tried to blur the border between documentation and fiction. Above all, my text is meant to be fact as literature with all the problematic and ambiguous implications which such an attempt entails.”

To accomplish this, Heker created a narrative with multiple narrators, a disjointed, fragmented vision of reality that is almost a literary representation of life in Argentina during this period of fear and terror. As the reader learns early on, Diana is myopic, a fact Heker emphasizes in order to explain the apparent haziness of the information presented in telling Leonora’s story. Diana is trying to write the story of her former friend Leonora who turned her back on her comrades and her ideals. She starts the story again and again, on napkins, receipts, etc., never able to adequately tell Leonora’s story. (Like her myopia, this scattering of fragmented texts also comes to represent Argentine society at the time.)

There are some fairly intense scenes in the book, and through all the layers of narration and other postmodern games, the fear of living in Argentina during the “Dirty War” does seep through and is quite captivating. Once the reader realizes that this is metafiction taken to another level—it’s not just the novel of Diana trying to write a novel, rather it’s Hertha’s novel about Diana trying to write a novel—there is a sense that the book is overly structured, that it’s layers have become more obfuscating than enlightening. That said, it’s an interesting portrayal of a dark part of Argentine history and does deserve an English audience.

The End of the Story
Translated from the Spanish by Andrea Labinger
172 pp.
Unpublished in English Translation

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The End of the Story
By Liliana Heker
Translated by Andrea G. Labinger
Reviewed by Nicholas Barnes
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