Debut fiction (first published in 1989 in Argentina) that evokes recent Argentinean history and offers occasionally obscure set-pieces of magic realism with a feminist angle. Characters appear and reappear in new incarnations as Borinsky (now a professor at Boston University) tells of a country where ``the shame of silence kept growing among the people [who] lived like tiles of a Byzantine mosaic, each one trying to keep to its own color and occupation without knowing the pattern of the whole.'' The women here are also like those tiles—some even believing they know the pattern only to discover that they've been as badly misled as everyone else. Michaela, who'd ``begun to dream memories in technicolor,'' invents a magic sponge that—by making all women beautiful—``displeases the men who prized the ugliness of their women intensely because it allowed them to have mistresses.'' Carmen, who wants ``to sing the praises of marriage,'' marries Francisco; he in turn leaves her for beautiful, luxury-loving Cristina, who ``inspired him to make patriotic speeches.'' Together, the two rule the country but simultaneously prepare for exile abroad. When Cristina suspects that a beloved advisor has been murdered by Francisco's thugs, the muchachas, she's exiled to an elaborate underground world that the muchachas have built to resemble England, complete with a Harrod's. Another woman, Rosario, temporarily consoles Francisco but leaves him to become a nun. The underground constructions are discovered, and exiles begin to return, ``now expecting nothing.'' Some marvelously imaginative writing, and the oblique sendups of recent women autocrats like the two Per¢ns and Imelda Marcos add a light touch to an otherwise dark, often dense tale of a country only now coming out of its own interior exile. Challenging.
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