A brief, abrading, and predictably horrible tract about torture in pre-Alfonsin Argentina--but for all its rawness, still a tract and thus very limited. One day during confession a parish priest, Father Antonio, is handed a box containing shreds of paper, some of them fouled by every possible human excretion. They are, these bits of paper, documents--scribbled secret records of unimaginable barbarity inflicted by the secret police on young parishoner Susana. The girlfriend of a medical student that the police seek, she serves as a surrogate for the torturers until--and even after--the boyfriend is captured. She and other women are systematically degraded, abused, and made to suffer unimaginable pains. The worst is perhaps one involving a rat, a blowtorch, a human rectum--while the most run-of-the-mill is the application of electric shock on and in the victims. Unfortunately, though--this being a tract--Rivabella's outrage is wholly spent in the depiction of the inhumanities; there's little else but nailhead documentation. Father Antonio's growing doubts and fears and, in time, terror don't fully convince--they are too obviously counterweights. So much horror made repetitious has a contrary artistic effect: it numbs us too early--which is why the much briefer narrations of torture in a book like Jacobo Timmerman's about the same thing resonate more deeply: a context has first been built around them. Undeniably strong but with less punch than you'd expect; the subject here is morally repugnant, but the treatment aesthetically unrealized.