THE DISAPPEARED AND THE MOTHERS OF THE PLAZA: The Story of the 11,000 Argentinians Who Vanished by John & Jana Bennett Simpson

THE DISAPPEARED AND THE MOTHERS OF THE PLAZA: The Story of the 11,000 Argentinians Who Vanished

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This depiction of life in Argentina under the brutally repressive regime of the military junta that toppled Isabelita Peron in 1976 (and collapsed itself seven years later after the ill-advised and ill-fated ""Falklands War"") is in part a bloody chronicle of cattle prods applied for hours to screaming victims, of ""doorless flights"" in which prisoners were pushed from planes over jungles or seas, of unmarked graves that appeared overnight in provincial cemeteries. It is also a tale of skewed ideals and numbing self-interest, of political and commercial adventurism, of totalitarian efficiency alternating with opera buffa ineptitude. The authors, a pair of British TV reporters, conducted hundreds of interviews between 1983 and 1984 in a search for the truth behind widespread allegations of kidnappings, tortures and murders. What they uncovered was a society riddled with cynicism, expediency, intolerance and delusive national pride. Few in that society escape the authors' well-directed scorn. Even Jacobo Timerman, whose Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number first focused the world's attention to the Argentinian repression, failed, according to them, to denounce the situation adequately until he found himself a victim. There were some who spoke out at the time--a Catholic bishop and an American rabbi here, a newspaper editor and a US State Department official there, Amnesty International, the Carter Administration in Washington, and, most touchingly, ""The Mothers of the Plaza"" named in the title. For the great body of witnesses to the ""disappearance"" (read ""elimination"") of 11,000 of their fellow citizens, however, the response was a silent know-nothingism. Once the reader has absorbed the initial horror, he is overcome with a vague misanthropy, a sense of futility and disillusion. Both the participants in the cruelty and those who allowed it to go on unprotested provoke feelings of revulsion. The reader hopes against hope that in a similar situation he would react differently. It is in prompting this flickering hope, perhaps, that Simpson and Bennett have produced the most important element of their disturbing report. Despite the overwhelming evidence of near-universal venality, sadism and indifference in The Disappeared and the Mothers of the Plaza, the hope remains.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's