The secrets of the Argentine pampa in Ricardo Piglias clever and allusive novel
Before Ricardo Piglia passed away early this year, he assumed the reputation of being Argentina’s most prominent living writer. Upon his death, his status among the great writers of Argentina, such as Jorge Borges and Julio Cortazar has been the subject of literary debates all over the world. If there is something certain about his legacy, he has established his name as a well-known literary critic in his homeland with critical novels such as Burnt Money (Plata Quemada, 1997). He was for many years, editor of various magazines in Argentina and was also a professor of literature and cinema. He established a reputation as the quaint-essential man of letters whose life revolved around his books and often crosses into his writing.
His world’s center of gravity is Argentina and its forces are what holds “Target in the Night” together.
The book is set in the early 1970s in the countryside of Buenos Aires. Roughly speaking, this society is divided into landowners and farmers and day laborers. There is the factory of the old and sick industrialist Luca Belladonna, whose family and family history is the focus of this strongly male-dominated novel. This only one among many allusions in the novel. Belladonna’s twin daughters once moved out to experience life in the US, from where they brought the dandy Tony Durán. He pretended to be interested in horse breeding, had pockets full of money and a strange relationship with the hotel’s Japanese night porter, where he stayed as a permanent guest. Now Tony Durán is dead and the Japanese night porter is the primary suspect.
From the initially wildly proliferating book, it becomes a kind of thriller, with a headstrong and cross-thinking commissioner, an assistant admiring his boss admirably, and a prosecutor pursuing his own interests and wanting to dismiss the commissioner for his unorthodox theories. And then there is Emilio Renzi, a journalist from Buenos Aires, who was summoned to the province because of the mysterious death of the stranger, Tony Durán. It becomes more interesting at this point, because Renzi is a recurring character. He already appears in Piglia’s novel “Artificial Respiration”, as well as in one of the stories in a volume entitled, “The Goldsmith”, where he is described as: “Emilio Renzi’s passion was linguistics, even if he made a living with literary reviews in the daily El Mundo. ”
It is quite possible that Ricardo Piglia is playing his game with the reader here and moving through his books in the guise of Renzi. Anyway, when Commissioner Croce is condemned to the psychiatric ward, Renzi becomes a substitute investigator. He interferes with one of the Belladonna sisters and learns from her a twist on the curious family story, In an abandoned factory, he tracks down Luca Belladonna, by installing a highly curious but ingenious system of art, theory and engineering. Target in the Night is an intense and tragic family history reminiscent of King Lear, in which the madness of the detective is integral to solving crime.
There’s a lot more to read from the novel: there’s a well-structured trial, some wry necks and a sacrificial pawn. All these details sound confusing and they are intended to be like that. Piglia never makes it easy for his readers but he rewards them with intense and dense images, with strong characters and an intricate, thrilling story that has never been told like before.
Target in the Night by Ricardo Piglia, Sergio Waisman (Translator), Kindle Edition, 288 pages, Published October 19th 2015 by Deep Vellum Publishing (first published 2010)