This clever comic novel about a conventional Argentinian businessman caught up in guerilla politics is buoyantly relentless in its biting satire.
Argentine novelist and translator Gamerro (The Islands, 2012, etc.) uses the context of early 1970s Peronist political turmoil for his farce, originally published in Spanish in 2004. Our protagonist is Marroné, a placid middle manager devoted to inspirational business texts such as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People. When Marroné’s CEO is kidnapped by a guerilla group—frustrating Marroné’s plans to make a pitch for a promotion—his severed finger is delivered by mail to his flustered staff. Then Marroné, by now established as a deeply conventional and repressed family man, is himself abducted by the rebels and imprisoned in a plaster factory—the one where they make the eponymous busts of Eva Perón. Gamerro makes full use of his contradiction-rich setting, including bourgeois schoolboys appropriating fierce rebel names and Marroné’s dogged efforts to maintain his plans for corporate advancement in the guerilla hideout. In one hilarious passage, Marroné considers Shakespeare’s plays from the perspective of how well they illustrate business management principles. In another, he contemplates Evita as a masterpiece of image-creation: “Eva Perón was a born winner, a self-made woman who had created a product—herself—that millions in Argentina and around the world had bought and consumed.” Marroné’s persistently market-driven constructions are some of the funniest things in the book, especially when other factors suggest his flirtation with rebel leadership could turn his life around. But this seesawing makes him a very funny hero.
Though the book could use a few more characters as richly drawn as Marroné, he deserves the spotlight as a bumbling Everyman caught up in a struggle between political change and his own selfishness.