PERON: A Biography by Joseph A. Page
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PERON: A Biography

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The slippery facts of Peron's life pinned down from the available sources; a coherent interpretation of his career; some of its intrinsic drama; and repeated raps at US misconceptions and missteps: all told, a formidable achievement--and if not impeccably styled, at least without flab. Prof. Page (Law, Georgetown) justifiably notes the obstacles--Peron's propensity for lying, the lack of primary sources, the reluctance of eyewitnesses to talk (still); and it is his own readiness to acknowledge what's not ascertainable, to print variant versions, and to conjecture openly, that gives the book its credibility. To Page, ""Peron was Argentina, and Argentina was Peron."" An inspired pragmatist, he seized upon the labor movement to exercise army-style leadership and gain essential popular backing for a military regime. He was not a fascist, or a Nazi collaborator during World War II (though he did have some close German friends). On this standing allegation, Page is very thorough--and also bent on disabusing Americans of the notion that only a pro-Axis government kept Argentina out of the war. (""The overwhelming majority of Argentines supported neutrality as being in the best interest of their country."") Enter, too, American hard-liner Spruille Braden--whose efforts to keep the presidency from Peron backfired. Peron, however, had domestic opposition as well: part of the story is how many times he saved himself--as on the historic 17th of October, 1945, when ""dark-haired, dark-skinned marchers"" in factory garb invaded downtown Buenos Aires, singing popular songs and chanting for ""their colonel,"" while Peron, held at a military hospital, ""remained calm and cautious, still in his pajamas, looking for the right moment."" Page's overall assessment: ""The collective experience of that day would raise Argentine workers above their counterparts in the rest of Latin America. This distinction still endures and is perhaps Peron's most notable legacy."" On Evita, Page takes much the same moderate position as joint biographers Nicholas Fraser and Marissa Navarro. As regards Isabel, the long exile, and the final return, his account, though necessarily spotty, is far and away the fullest around--and knowing on the intricate left-and-right politics. Page has a certain tendency to hyperbolize--but given the sensational material, this is restrained and rigorously factual.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1983
Publisher: Random House