cover image The Touch System

The Touch System

Alejandra Costamagna, trans. from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman. Transit, $15.95 trade paper (150p) ISBN 978-1-945492-50-1

Chilean writer Costamagna’s insightful English-language debut unpacks the drama and hardships faced by several generations of an Italian family that immigrated to Argentina in the early 20th century. In the present day, Ania Coletti leaves her home in Chile to visit her dying uncle, Agustín, in Campana, a small town in Argentina, at her father’s request. She hasn’t returned since the death of Agustín’s mother, Nélida, and the trip stirs up memories of her childhood, when she traveled frequently over the Andes between the two countries and learned what it means to be an outsider, as people in Argentina made fun of her accent. Throughout, Anina reflects on the theme of otherness. In Campana, a monument to immigrants makes her think of the “surging tides of pride and exile,” and of those who found “the oceans of grass and infinitely fertile fields and the land they’d been promised didn’t exist.” After Anina discovers a cache of photos and letters from Italy in Agustín’s cupboard, which reveal the life Nélida left behind, her observations expand to reflect on how suffering and loss have shaped her family. Costamagna brings lightness to the heavy material with memories of Ania’s magical thinking as a child, and with typo-laced snippets from Agustín’s typing exercises (“The keyboard is divided into two parts by an imaginary lime”). Readers will find themselves hoping for more of this bold writer’s work. (May)