An impressionistic portrait of a woman revered and reviled in Argentina, just in time for the scheduled December release of the Madonna film Evita. Eva Per¢n became an icon during her 194552 reign as wife of dictator Juan Per¢n, but one perceived in radically different ways: To some she symbolized all that is good about Argentina; to others, all that is evil. These contradictory perceptions took such hold of the Argentinean imagination that they still run strong 44 years after her death from cancer at the age of 33. Argentine journalist Ortiz paints a picture of Per¢n that provides ammunition for both camps: She was, it seems, a petty, jealous, and shallow woman, who also did remarkable good for Argentina's poor. Ortiz digs deep into Per¢n's background as the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy landowner, and as a mediocre and often desperately poor actress, to explain her contradictory character. But this is no linear biography. Ortiz's Per¢n is like a character in a Gabriel Garc°a M†rquez novel: Her essence shifts according to the situation or the time of day. Ortiz even adopts a M†rquez-like style, offering several different versions of crucial events in Per¢n's life. ``But where is the truth?'' she asks. ``In life, as in drama, it is often found in feelings.'' At the same time, Ortiz inundates the reader with details about the palace intrigues of the Per¢n years, drawn from newly declassified documents, further tantalizing readers with suggestive but unsubstantiated hints of vast payoffs to Eva and Juan Per¢n from postwar Nazi fugitives in exchange for safe haven. Indeed, Ortiz's biography is so awash in suggestive information that it becomes virtually impossible to follow all of the possible threads of Per¢n's life. But, like an impressionist painting viewed from just the right angle, the book does convey an intriguing image of one the most controversial and fascinating women of our century.
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