SANTA EVITA by Tomás Eloy Martínez


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 Ingenious but exhausting fiction--essentially a continuation of Martínez's The Perón Novel (1988)-- that examines the mercurial and enigmatic figure of Evita, the ``poverty-stricken second-rate actress'' who became both heroine and saint to Argentina's populace. The narrator journalist, who is not distinguished from the author himself, tells the epically absurd (and true) story of the peregrinations of ``Evita'' Per¢n's embalmed corpse--back and forth across the oceans, in and out of the possession of ``Perónists'' eager to preserve her legacy and representatives of the military junta that drove Juan Perón into exile and now wish to demonstrate her mortality and corruptibility. Despite a flexible structure and the presence of several interesting subsidiary characters (Eva's hairdresser, the celebrated embalmer who made her his ``masterpiece,'' and especially the harassed Colonel, who is assigned the task of finding and burying her), the story consists largely of ever more detailed expositions of the same recurring essentials: Eva's popularity with the common folk who believed her to be their savior, later representations of her in stories by Latin American authors and the musical Evita, the macabre comedy of preserving (and replicating) her body, and her lingering effect on those who knew her or became involved in the effort to manage her image after her death. Perhaps it is simply a subject that doesn't travel well. In Argentina, Evita's body is a matter that clearly possesses the stature of myth. In any case, Martínez's novel is overlong, hectic, and something of a chore to get through.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44704-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1996


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