CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD by Douglas Mine

CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

First-novelist Mine combines the story of an Argentinian family with recent events in Argentina's history--the result is a travesty of a political novel. Mikhail, a left-wing carpenter and patriarch of the Migliones, emigrated in 1945 from Italy to Argentina with wife Angela. Now, in 1978, their sons are prosperous professionals: Santiago is an engineer designing planes for the air force, while Diego is a pediatrician. Mine uses these men and their families as pawns in a crude juxtaposition of Argentina's 1978 World (Soccer) Cup triumph (and, in 1982, its intended triumph over Britain in the Malvinas/Falklands war) with abominations committed by the junta in its ""dirty war"" against dissidents. Before the novel is over, all of the nine family members are pressed into service to make some Powerful Statement. Thus Diego's wife Ana teaches the blacklisted Marquez; soon after, the couple, committed leftists, are arrested, tortured and killed. Matriarch Angela joins the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo to protest her son's disappearance. Four years later, Santiago's son Alejandro, an ace soccer-player and member of the 1978 team, forfeits another shot at glory to fight for his country, while Santiago is induced to work around-the-clock so that Argentina can win the air war. But the security forces just won't leave the Migliones alone: Santiago's other kid Cristina, after denoucing the junta at school assembly, is killed in an elevator shaft at police headquarters; Daniel, her orphaned cousin, vows vengeance (""I'm going to do something. . .for the whole shitty country and the shitty country's shitty kids""), but dies in his abortive attempt to assassinate President Galtieri; then Santiago, after a ""crystal instant of wisdom"" in which he sees that Argentina must be defeated, destroys the planes he has just redesigned. Old Man Mikhail makes the closing Powerful Statement by shipping out, returning to his native Italy. Dreadful.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1988
Publisher: Simon & Schuster