Excerpt from Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Hades, Argentina

by Daniel Loedel

Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel X
Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2021, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2022, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
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One

I'd spent eight years officially disappeared. At least as far as I knew; I hadn't been back to Argentina since '76, and even after the ostensible resumption of democracy in '83, no one from the government ever managed to confirm my existence. Only in the ninth year, when I married an American and had to get certain papers in order for my green card, did Tomás Orilla return to documented being.

But the interval in between wasn't merely a bureaucratic absence. I'd shut myself off completely until I met my wife, and even then—by our first anniversary, I was already sleeping on the couch. The affair was hers, but the fault, I acknowledged tacitly, was mine. I'd never been truly present. Kind and available, yes. Committed too. Even making plans for the long term—a joint savings account, my citizenship application, and, most recently, conversations about children. But it was always an effort, a mask I put on. If I blamed Claire for anything, it was that she saw it for what it was and let me wear it anyway.

That's one reason I went back, when I got the call Pichuca was dying: it'd mean a break from our problems. But like all things, it was a combination, a messy one. The timing contributed: presumably it would be safer for me in Argentina now, three years into non-military rule. So did the fact that my work was portable. The notorious lure of the past—especially amidst all that secretly uncomfortable talk of the future—was certainly part of it as well.

There was also the call itself. Pichuca made it unassisted, rambling half-intelligibly through a patchy connection that left her sounding older than her sixty years, and a good deal crazier. Not at first, when she told me it was pancreatic cancer and she had little time left, nor when she gave me the logistical details I needed in order to visit. But at the end, when she told me over an increasingly scratchy line that Isabel could come back as well, despite the fact that Isabel had been disappeared as long as I had.

I chalked up the delusion to Pichuca's illness. But the idea still held symbolic appeal, the kind to do with closure and redemption, putting stubborn ghosts back in their graves.
Only when I hung up did I wonder: My departure from the country had been almost traceless. I left behind no forwarding address or number. I didn't notify anyone, regrettably not even my mother, who died several months later. How Pichuca had found me—how anybody could have—was a mystery.

A small one maybe. Getting those citizenship forms in order had led me to fill out others, and more paths to me had opened up than I liked. There were census questionnaires, banks and lawyers contacting me about my mother's unclaimed assets, and requests for an interview from CONADEP, the country's newly founded commission investigating the military government and disappeared persons. Their inquiries had been the most difficult to navigate, as Claire had seen one of the envelopes. She knew more than the broad contours with which most Americans were familiar—Cold War, U.S.-backed authoritarian regime kidnapping and killing tens of thousands at will in the name of fending off communism. She was aware of my time in detention, had heard me recount certain nightmares and encouraged me to confront them. Yet my honesty with her remained selective, and the full, fleshed-out story still wasn't one I was eager to examine, much less hand over.

The point is, I could reason out ways of tracking me down if I tried. But mostly they involved big investigative bodies and the kind of resources someone like Pichuca would never have had at her disposal. So the question of how she managed it proved to be its own draw. And though I could have called back—she'd told me what hospital in Buenos Aires she was in, the room number as well—I didn't. Instead I simply told Claire my plans and booked my flight and hotel.

Excerpted from Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel. Copyright © 2021 by Daniel Loedel. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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