Reseña: Plata quemada, de Ricardo Piglia


This post is bilingual, scroll down for the English-language version.

Anagrama, 2000. Colección Compactos. Primera edición en Narrativas hispánicas, 2000. 230 pages. ISBN: 978-84-339-7271-2

Plata quemada

Advertencia Esta entrada puede contener spoilers, contrariamente a lo que es práctica habitual en mis comentarios. Si ha decidido leer este libro, es posible que desee omitir su lectura hasta entonces. Pero tal vez usted no tiene nada decidido todavía y, aún así, quiere seguir leyendo esta entrada. Esto no le colocará en una posición peor a la de los primeros lectores. La novela está basada en una historia real y el resultado final ya era conocido por el público en general.

Como acabo de decir, Plata Quemada cuenta una historia real, lo que en inglés se denomina un “true crime” que tuvo lugar entre el 27 de septiembre y el 6 de noviembre de 1965. La historia comienza en San Fernando, un barrio residencial de Buenos Aires, cuando una banda roba una camioneta pick-up marca IKA que trasportaba el dinero para pagar los sueldos, desde el banco hasta el Ayuntamiento, situado a unos doscientos metros de distancia. 

Dorda y Brignone participan en el asalto a mano armada. “Los llaman los mellizos proque son inseparables. Pero no son hermanos, ni parecidos. Difícil encontrar dos tipos tan diferentes. Tiene en común el modo de mirar, los ojos claros, quietos, una fuerza extraviada en la mirada recelosa. Dorda es pesado, tranquilo, con cara rubicunda y sonrisa fácil. Brignone es flaco, ágil, liviano, tiene el pelo negro y la piel muy pálida, como si hubiera pasado en la cárcel más tiempo del que realmente pasó.”

El Cuervo Mereles conduce el Chevrolet 400 que intercepta el pick-up y en el que los tres atracadore, Dorda (alias el Gaucho Rubio) Brignone (alias el Nene) y Mereles se dan a la fuga con el dinero, mientras Malito y el Chueco Bazán cubren el Banco, desde un hotel cercano. “Malito era el jefe y habia hecho los planes y había armado los contactos con los políticos y los canas que le habian pasado los datos, los planes, los detalles y a quienes tenían que entregarles la mitad del paquete. Había muchos metidos en ese negocio pero Malito pensaba que ellos tenían diez o dóce horas de ventaja, que podían dejarlos a todos, rajarse con toda la mosca y cruzar al Uruguay.”

Durante el asalto murieron cuatro personas. Un empleado de seguridad, herido en el tiroteo, fue rematado a sangre fría. Según un periódico, la confusión natural de los primeros momentos no permite especificar cómo sucedió. Algunos testigos afirman que uno de los ocupantes del Chevrolet resultó herido.

En su huida, el Chevrolet tuvo un accidente y tienen que dejar el coche, pero se las arreglan para conseguir otro a punta de pistola. Ni las patrullas móviles ni los puestos fijos fueron capaces de seguir la pista del coche robado.

Los periódicos no descartan que los pistoleros hayan sido contratados por una organización más amplia. Se habla incluso de manera no oficial de una operación sostenida por redes clandestinas de la llamada resistencia peronista. El oficial de policía a cargo de la investigación es el Chano Silva. Silva, un comisario de policía de Robos y Hurtos que no investiga, simplemente utiliza la tortura y la traición como método. Ha creado un escuadrón de la muerte siguiendo el modelo brasileño.

El Chueco Bazán es en realidad un informante de la policía. Al día siguiente los periódicos traen la fotografía del comisario Silva con el cadáver de Bazán. En palabras de Silva, los delincuentes han comenzado a matarse unos a otros para escapar de la justicia, pero la policía sigue su pista y tienen sus horas contadas.

Dos días después, las autoridades han considerado que el caso ha sido aclarado, aunque los autores materiales se encuentran todavía huídos. La policía ha detenido a siete cómplices, entre ellos un funcionario comunal, un conocido cantante de tangos, el hijo y el sobrino del Presidente del Consejo de San Fernando, y un suboficial del Ejército que vendió las armas utilizadas en el robo. Como Silva ha reconocido “off the record” los fugitivos son sujetos peligrosos, antisociales, homosexuales y drogadictos. Delincuentes comunes, psicópatas y asesinos con numerosos antecedentes penales.

Sin embargo Malito, Mereles, el Niño y el Gaucho pudieron llegar a Montevideo, donde, según la prensa, el 4 de noviembre de 1965 comenzó una orgía de sangre y fuego. Se originó en el momento en que una mujer vio cómo dos hombres estaban cambiando las placas de la matrícula a un Studebacker y le pareció bastante extraño.

El asedio a la vivienda donde se refugiaron duró dos días con la participación de trescientos policías. Emilio Renzi, un periodista del diario de Buenos Aires El Mundo y ‘alter ego’ de Ricardo Piglia (De hecho el nombre completo de Piglia es Ricardo Emilio Piglia Renzi) escribe lo que Silva ha comenzado a declarar:

– Son enfermos mentales.

– Matar enfermos mentales no está bien visto por el periodismo –ironizó el cronista-. Hay que llevarlos al manicomio, no ejecutarlos…

En realidad, nadie supo lo pasó con el líder de la banda. Enrique Mario Malito desapareció justo antes del asedio y no se le volvió a ver.

En el epílogo de fecha 25 de julio de 1997, el propio Piglia nos dice que escuchó por primera vez esta historia por casualidad durante un viaje de tren en 1966. Comenzó a investigar poco después, en 1968 ó 1969, y escribió la primera versión de este libro, pero el proyecto fue abandonado en 1970. En el verano de 1995 comenzó a escribir una nueva novela tratando de ser completamente fiel a los hechos. El libro fue publicado por primera vez en 1997. Ese mismo año fue galardonado con el Premio Planeta Argentina, pero su concesión dio lugar a una controversia. El problema no era la calidad de la novela premiada, que nadie discutía, sino la existencia de circunstancias que revelaban que el premio habia sido otorgado con “predisposición o predeterminación” en su favor (Clarín).

Plata quemada fue considerado en el 2007 entre los 100 mejores libros escritos en los últimos 25 años en lengua española por un panel de 81 escritores y críticos españoles y latinoamericanos. La novela fue llevada al cine en el 2000, dirigida por Marcelo Piñeyro.

Plata quemada es una novela oscura, tremendamente violenta, incluso brutal que puede que no sea del gusto de todas las sensibilidades. Debo admitir que me ha colocado fuera de mi zona de confort de vez en cuando. Pero tiene, sin duda, un gran mérito literario principalmente por su estructura narrativa, y por su dominio del lenguaje que, por desgracia, puede perderse en la traducción. No es un libro fácil de leer e incluso si el subgénero “true crime” no se encuentra entre mis favoritos sólo puedo recomendar este libro. No tengo ninguna duda de que Piglia es actualmente uno de los escritores más importantes en lengua española. Una novela brillante aunque bastante perturbadora en ocasiones. Anteriormente he comentado su novela Blanco nocturno AQUÍ.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Ver reseñas en Taller de Lectura de Liliana Costa, El buen librero, Plata Quemada en el umbral de la novela policíaca posmoderna

Anagrama

Guillermo Schavelzon Agencia Literaria

Money to Burn, by Ricardo Piglia

Warning This entry may contain spoilers, contrary to what is usual practice in my reviews. If you have decided to read this book, you may want to skip its reading until then. But maybe you have nothing decided yet and, even so, you want to continue reading this entry. This will not put you in a worst position than to the first readers. The novel is based on a true story and the final outcome was already known by the general public.   

As just said, Money to Burn is based on a true crime that took place between September 27 and November 6, 1965. The story begins in San Fernando, a residential suburb of Buenos Aires, when a gang robs an IKA pick-up truck that was transporting the money to pay salaries, from the Bank up to the City Hall, located some two hundred meters away. 

Dorda and Brignone take part in the armed robbery. ‘They are called the twins because they’re inseparable. But they aren’t brothers, nor do they even look like one another. In fact, it would be hard to find two more different physical types. What they have in common is a way of looking at you, with their pale, placid eyes, a savage stare in a suspicious face. Dorda is heavy, quiet, with a ruddy face and an easy smile. Brignone is thin, slightly built, agile, has black hair and a complexion so pallid, it looks as if he’s spent more time in jail than he actually has.’ (Translation Amanda Hopkinson, 2003) 

The Crow Mereles drives the Chevrolet 400 that intercepts the pick-up and in which the three armed robbers, Dorda (aka the Blond Gaucho) Brignone (aka the Kid) and Mereles fled away taking with them the money while Malito and Twisty Bazán cover the Bank from a nearby hotel. ‘Malito was the boss and had made his plans and prepared his contacts with politicians and the police who furnished him with data, maps, details and to whom, in return, he would give half of the proceeds. There were a whole lot of players in the game but Malito was convinced he has at least ten to twelve hours advantage over the others, that he could leave them waiting for they pay-off and escape with the dough, across the border into Uruguay.’ (Translation Amanda Hopkinson, 2003)       

During the assault four people were killed. A security employee, injured in the shooting, was finished off in cold blood. According to a newspaper, the natural confusion of the early moments do not allowed to specify how it happened. Some witnesses claim that one of the occupants of the Chevrolet was hurt.

In their escape, the Chevrolet had an accident and they have to leave the car, but they manage to get another one at gunpoint. Neither the mobile patrols nor the fixed posts  were able to follow the track of the stolen car.

The newspapers do not rule out that the gunmen have been hired by a broader organization. There is even talk unofficially of an operation sustained by clandestine networks of the so called Peronist resistance. The police officer in charge of the investigation is Chano Silva. Silva, a police commissioner in Theft and Robbery does not investigate, he simply uses torture and betrayal as method. He has put together a death squad following the Brazilian model.

Twisty Bazan is actually a police informant. The following day the newspapers bring the photograph of commissioner Silva with Bazan’s corpse. In Silva words, the criminals have begun to kill each other to escape justice, but the police follows their track and they have their hours counted .

Two days after, the authorities have considered the case has been clarified although the perpetrators are still on the run. The police have arrested seven accomplices, including a communal official, a well-known singer of tangos, the son and nephew of the President of the Council of San Fernando, and the Army sergeant who sold the weapons used in the robbery. As Silva has recognized “off the record” the fugitives are dangerous subjects, antisocial, homosexuals and drug addicts. Common criminals, psychopaths and murderers with extensive criminal records.

Nevertheless Malito, Mereles, the Kid and the Gaucho were able to make it to Montevideo where, according to the newspapers, the 4th of November 1965 an orgy of blood and fire began. It was originated from the moment a woman saw how two men were changing the number plates to a Studebacker and it seemed to her rather odd.

The siege to the apartment where they took refuge lasted two days and involved three hundred policemen. Emilio Renzi, a journalist from the Buenos Aires newspaper El Mundo and the ‘alter ego’ of Ricardo Piglia (In fact  Piglia’s full name is Ricardo Emilio Piglia Renzi) writes down what Silva has begun to declare:

– They are mentally ill.

– To kill the mentally ill is not viewed favourably by journalism -the reporter said ironically-. They must be taken to an asylum, not executed …

No one really knew what happened to the gang leader. Enrique Mario Malito disappeared just before the siege and was not seen again.

In the epilogue, dated 25 July 1997, Piglia himself tells us that he first heard this story by chance during a railway trip in 1966. He begun to research shortly after, in 1968 or 1969, and wrote the first version of this book, but the project was abandoned in 1970. In the summer of 1995 he began writing a completely new novel, trying to be completely faithful to the facts. The book was first published in 1997. That same year it was awarded the Premio Planeta Argentina, but its concession lead to a controversy. The problem was not the quality of the award-winning novel , which nobody disputed, but the existence of circumstances that revealed the prize had been awarded with ‘predisposition or predetermination’ in his favour (Clarín). 

Money to Burn  was considered in 2007 among the top 100 books written in the past 25 years in Spanish language by a panel of 81 Spanish and Latin American writers and critics. The novel was made ​​into a film in 2000, directed by Marcelo Piñeyro.

Money to Burn is a dark, extremely violent, and even brutal novel that may not be for the taste of all sensibilities. I must admit that it has placed me out of my comfort zone occasionally. But it has, undoubtedly, a great literary merit mainly for its narrative structure, and its command of the language which, unfortunately, can be lost in translation. It is not an easy book to read and even if the ‘true crime’ subgenre isn’t among my favourites I can recommend this book. I have no doubt that Piglia is currently one of the most important writers in the Spanish language. A brilliant although rather disturbing novel sometimes. Previously I’ve reviewed his book Nocturnal Target, HERE.

My rating: A (I loved it).

Money to Burn has been reviewed at Nthposition, Publishers Weekly, The Independent, International Noir Fiction (Glenn)

Guillermo Schavelzon Literary Agency

Fantastic Fiction

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8 thoughts on “Reseña: Plata quemada, de Ricardo Piglia

  1. I tried reading it about a year ago, and it was too violent for me then. I enjoyed your review though because now I know what I passed up!

  2. What a great review Jose Ignacio…though it does sound like it might be too violent for me (especially as it’s all true). I find the older I get the less I can cope with violence – not sure why that is.

    What you say about things being lost in translation must happen often…even with the best of translators it must sometimes be hard to get just the right nuance across. Have you ever read a book in two languages? I don’t know why you would bother when it’s hard enough to find the time to read a book once let alone twice but I just wondered if you ever had and if so did you notice meanings or nuances that were ‘lost’?

    1. I very much appreciate your kind words, Bernadette.
      Have toyed with the idea but except for a few pages I have never try so far but maybe I’ll do it one day. By the way I understand that Amanda Hopkinson did an excellent job with this book. In fact the two quotes are excellent. The problem is how to translate the Buenos Aires slang into English,

      1. Oh yes I can just imagine that translating slang would be almost impossible – I remember hearing a translator being interviewed on the radio here and she had translated from Australia’s version of English into Dutch and she said that sort of thing was very hard as it’s not just about getting a precise meaning but also the tone and intent – some slang terms can say a lot beyond just the meaning of the word itself.

        Which all just makes me wish I was bilingual like you Jose Ignacio 🙂

  3. Jose, I have just ordered a copy of this, so thanks are in order. I’m trying to cut-back on adding too many books when I have so much to read, so I would be grateful if you could focus your future reviews on dull, uninteresting books or ones I already have!

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