I REMEMBER JULIA by Eric Stener Carlson


Voices of the Disappeared
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 A somber tale of murder and a kind of resurrection from the country that made ``to disappear'' a transitive verb. Eric Stener Carlson went to Argentina as a member of a forensics team that identified the remains of some of the 30,000 victims of the military dictatorship of the 1970s and early '80s. (That dictatorship fell following Argentina's defeat in the Falklands War.) In one of the country's estimated 340 death camps, in a graveyard ``covered by years of garbage tossed over the cemetery wall by neighbors,'' he found a skeleton whose skull had been shattered by a shotgun blast. Thanks to the fact that her orthodontist had presciently kept records of all patients who had disappeared during the so-called Dirty War, ``Skeleton #17'' eventually became ``Julia,'' who had been murdered in 1977. In Carlson's hands, Julia is at once a real person--a medical student, as it happens, seemingly destined for a brilliant career--and a composite, ``an opinion, an idea that lives in people's minds,'' as much as a much-missed member of the young intelligentsia who unwisely expressed leftist views to the wrong audience. She and her peers come to life in oral remembrances gathered from schoolmates, relatives, civil-rights activists, and even members of the military; their recollections range from the prosaic to the profound. The conversations he records touch on but do not deeply delve into the atmosphere of terror that once pervaded Argentina, and the silences often outweigh what is spoken; ``we were afraid,'' one survivor of the time says with elegant simplicity. By giving voice to that terrible era, Carlson offers a touching memorial to a ravaged generation whose murderers have recently been pardoned by presidential decree. One hopes that Julia's child--she was pregnant at the time of her disappearence, and the forensics indicate that she gave birth before being murdered--will one day learn something of her mother through these pages.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-56639-430-9
Page count: 169pp
Publisher: Temple Univ. Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996