MY TENDER MATADOR by Pedro Lemebel


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An odd-couple romance, in the tradition of Kiss of the Spider Woman or The Crying Game, between a Marxist revolutionary and drag queen.

The American debut of Chilean activist and writer Lemebel begins in 1986, after 13 years of military dictatorship in Chile. Underground groups of revolutionary terrorists have been wreaking havoc across the country with alarming regularity, causing blackouts in the cities and assassinations in the provinces, and the authorities respond with predictable brutality. During times as troubled as these, even someone as politically ignorant as the Queen of the Corner, a transvestite living in the back streets of Santiago’s teeming slums, can become a player—although not by her own choice. The Queen has the misfortune to meet and fall for Carlos, a handsome young revolutionary, and is innocent enough to offer him the use of her home. Soon Carlos is dropping off large parcels for safekeeping and bringing friends over for late-night meetings on short notice. The smitten Queen doesn’t mind that these packages contain weird devices that look like torpedoes, or that Carlos’s study groups never seem to discuss books or classes. Her story unfolds alongside that of Gonzalo, another gay Chilean, who serves as hairdresser to Pinochet’s wife. Gonzalo is about as politically informed as the Queen—he thinks, for example, that the General would be much better liked by revolutionaries if he changed the color of his uniforms—but he is able to see the regime’s growing desperation from the inside. A collision will come somewhere down the road, obviously, but who will be the victim, Carlos or the General? Or will more innocent parties, like Gonzalo or the Queen, pay the price?

A sharp account, suspenseful and nicely paced, that benefits from the unusual perspectives of innocent bystanders in this dirty game.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-8021-1768-6
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2003


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