Roberto Bolaño’s "Irma Carrasco"

This is my favorite story in Nazi Literature of the Americas -- the one about the marriage between Irma Carrasco, a Mexican woman with Fascist sympathies, and Gabino Barreda, a Mexican man who starts out as a Communist. The prose is of Borgesian beauty and acuity -- like Borges, Bolaño never talks down to me emotionally, if you see what I'm saying...

One beauty of the story is that, although the reader knows Bolaño is a man of the left, within this relationship it's Irma who's oppressed by Gabino. This is entirely realistic -- there's no question that some Latin American leftists are tyrants to their wives. Irma's primary virtues, fidelity and self-discipline, are right-wing virtures; Gabino lacks these virtures but equally lacks the left-wing virtues of tolerance and empathy -- he's not even faithful to his cause, and by the end of the story thinks of himself more as a libertarian.

Irma's love of Gabino feeds off the same drive towards self-abasement as her love of Franco, and her love of Franco feeds Gabino's abuse of her. The couple first separate during the Spanish Civil War. After they reunite, what provokes Gabino to hit Irma again is her defending "the honor of Franco's regime." Later, we get this glorious summation of Irma's politics --

"'The only political system in which I have complete confidence,' she told an interviewer for the women's magazine 'Housework,' 'is theocracy, although Generalísimo Franco is doing a pretty good job too.’”

The brutal and pointless oscillations of power within this dysfunctional marriage mirror those between right and left in Latin America over the same time period.

Here's a link to a diagram of Bolaño's oeuvre that I do not understand -- by Javier Moreno, who also gives the history of the diagram, concedes that it should really be an animation, then cunningly rejects the entire exercise.

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