cover image The Peron Novel

The Peron Novel

Tomas Eloy Martinez. Pantheon Books, $19.95 (357pp) ISBN 978-0-394-55838-7

Credibly straddling the terrain between outright fiction and ascertainable fact, making intricate use of actual newspaper reports and interviews (the Argentinean Martinez is a journalist as well as a novelist) and crowding the canvas with a motley array of characters, this complex novel begins on the fateful day in 1973 when Juan Domingo Peron, in an advanced state of decay, left his 18-year exile in Spain to return to the turbulent anarchy of Argentina. Once all-powerful, a professional soldier and fanatic devotee of Napoleon, an admirer of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, the Generalissimo is now critically sick, bordering on senility, helpless as authority seeps away from him and into the hands of his power-hungry cohorts. The novel roils incessantly as it shifts in time and space between Spain and Argentina and the narrative moves from one voice to another, the principal ones being Peron's secretary and ghost-biographer and an anti-Peronist journalist who also acts as spokesman for the revolutionary opposition; and to add to the hubbub Martinez speaks in his own voice as well. Issued in Argentina in 1985, this is the first American publication of a masterfully written, absorbing work. (April)