BAD TIMES IN BUENOS AIRES ~ A Writer\'s Adventures in Arguentina
Book review and technical detail BAD TIMES IN BUENOS AIRES ~ A Writer\'s Adventures in Arguentina Miranda France
|Technical detail of BAD TIMES IN BUENOS AIRES ~ A Writer\'s Adventures in Arguentina|
|Title||BAD TIMES IN BUENOS AIRES ~ A Writer\'s Adventures in Arguentina|
|Publishing Date||1st January, 1970|
Where not to go on your summer vacation. Here is a portrait of a city as a complete basket case: Buenos Aires through the eyes of English journalist France. Having moved to the Latin American capital city in 1993 to work as a freelance reporter, France found the Paris of the South a picture of catastrophe: pollution that asphyxiates, a relentless din, a plague of rats, drivers who “believe a car accident is an act of God, and cannot be avoided.” The telephones don’t work, or the bureaucrats; holes pock the streets; the heat and damp addle and inebriate, making life a misery. Go ahead and choose from the 300 brands of condoms; still, only 8 are safe. Try to get keys replicated or get anything done without a bribe or a connection. Outside the metropolis, the worst-run provinces are little more than fiefdoms. Certainly worst of all—worse than the empty promises of Peronism, the endemic corruption (“honesty had rarely been the best policy in Argentina”), the murderous and sentimental attachment to the Malvinas—were the horrors of the “dirty war” of the 1970s, when gunmen in dark glasses operated with impunity to rid the country of not just Montoneros and political subversives, but “goody-goody” doctors who tended to the poor, writers of idealistic poetry, and, remarked a particularly zealous officer, “finally we shall kill the timid.” The years of bottomless terror, France avers, with plenty of ammunition, have resulted in a culture of silence, bitter and anxious, that throws a pervasive unease over the everyday life of Argentineans. Roll this all together and it ferments into a picture of a country off the rails and barely contained in its understandable fury There are bright spots in this bleak portrait, other than France’s cannily affecting writing: cafCs and bookshops and friends she loved, there is Borges and the tango, and the knowledge that she can leave.
When Miranda France, a 26-year-old freelance journalist, arrives in Buenos Aires to live and work, she discovers a city in crisis. "People said the city was sinking," she writes. "Of the 300 brands of condoms in circulation, only eight were safe. The traffic was out of control . . . More than 2,000 bus drivers were found to be clinically depressed."After securing a dilapidated apartment with a permanently crossed telephone line, Miranda France starts her life as a foreigner in Argentina. At night, she learns the tango ("danced properly it should be as passionate and loveless as a one-night stand"). By day, she tries to acquire the knack of viveza criolla (artful lying) to crack the bureaucracy of the local library and explores the legend of Evita Peron and her well-traveled corpse.During her stay, France encounters first-hand the choas and deep melancholy of the Argentine capital. Buenos Aires is, after all, a city where elegant street cafes overlook local workmen grilling hunks of beef on the curb for lunch; where rats outnumber humans eight to one; where investigative television programs look closely at the trend of rising hemlines; where a nationwide shortage of coins causes trips to the supermarket to end in squabbles over small change; where almost everyone France meets is in therapy (Buenos Aires has three times as many analysts per person as New York). Bad Times in Buenos Aires is a brilliant blend of humor, personal narrative, and rich historical background -- including a chilling interview with an army officer from the Dirty War. Winner of the prestigious Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing, Miranda France has written an insightful, vivid, and often laugh-out-loud account of daily life in the "Paris of the South."
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