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An Open Secret [Paperback]

Carlos Gamerro , Ian Barnett
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Paperback, 30 Jun 2011 --  

Book Description

30 Jun 2011

Drawing on the legacy of Argentina's Dirty War, Carlos Gamerro's An Open Secret is a compelling postmodern thriller confronting guilt, complicity and the treachery of language itself.

Dario Ezcurra is one of the thousands of Argentinians unlucky enough to be 'disappeared' by the military government-murdered by the local chief of police with the complicity of his friends and neighbours. Twenty years later, Fefe, a child at the time of the murder, returns to the town where Dario met his fate and attempts to discover how the community let such a crime happen. Lies, excuses and evasion ensue - desperate attempts to deny the guilty secret of which the whole community, even Fefe himself, is afraid.

Translated from the Spanish by Ian Barnett, Carlos Gamerro's An Open Secret is published by Pushkin Press.

'Carlos Gamerro's An Open Secret … has the makings of a classic'
— The Economist

'An Open Secret is paced like a taut thriller that ... ultimately, rewards the reader ... Gamerro creates a vivid sense of how gossip can poison a small town'
— The Independent

'An Open Secret digs away at the shallow graves of recent decades to find the pettiness, narrow-minds, and rivalries that motivated it'
— Ben Bollig, The Guardian

Carlos Gamerro (b. 1962) was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has published the novels Las Islas, El sueno del senor juez, El secreto y las voces, La aventura de los bustos de Eva and the book of short stories El libro de los afectos raros as well as numerous works of literary criticism. He also wrote the film script for the movie Tres de corazones (2007).

Product details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Pushkin Press (30 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190654848X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906548483
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,105,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A literary thriller ... that has the makings of a classic Economist If you didn't know they were translations you wouldn't guess, and when you do know you can't imagine how [Barnett's] done it -- Ben Bollig The Guardian --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Carlos Gamerro was born in Buenos Aires in 1962. He has published the novels Las Islas, El sueno del senor juez, El secreto y las voces, La aventura de los bustos de Eva and the book of short stories El libro de los afectos raros as well as numerous works of literary criticism. He also wrote the film script for the movie Tres de corazones (2007).

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars i didnlt like it 25 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this on the strength of an Economist review, and regretted it. The central character is not likeable, and while that is not necessary for a great book, the author fails to compensate for that by introducing a gripping story. Instead, I found it frequently quite dull and the final 'twist' left me ambivalent - perhaps I was beyond caring, but it seemed pretty contrived to me.

The author also has the irritating habit of not introducing characters (name, description, occupation, role etc) until several paragraphs after they appear. So you might get 3 or 4 paragraphs of conversation with Don Leon or whoever, before we can understand who the character is or what they do (such as manage the hotel). This is presumably intended to be a device that demonstrates the familiarity between the characters, but I did not enjoy it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Small Towns and Their Secrets 16 Nov 2012
By las cosas - Published on
Argentina in the 1970s was a time when thousands were murdered, often 'disappeared' by the military, and many many more fled into exile or lived under the ever-vigilant shadow of the military dictatorship. Even in tiny towns like Malihuel, a fictional town with 3,000 people in Northern Argentina, a place where everyone knows everything that goes on, and where not even a chicken can disappear without everyone knowing about it.

During that time Darío Ezcurra, a young man from one of Malihuel's leading families disappears. Twenty years later Fefe, who spent his childhood summers in the town visiting his grandparents returns to find out what happened to Dario. He stays with a close childhood friend and makes the rounds of the places where Malihuel's citizens congregate. "I was expecting a conspiracy if silence not a conspiracy of chattiness" and this novel is largely a transcript of that chattiness.

Everyone has a distinctive manner of telling a story. Some gently weave together the facts while others resort to bombast. Defensive, aggressive, humorous. Each narrative provides an xray of its narrator as well as a story. The author deserves praise for skillfully crafting a novel's worth of narratives that tell an interwoven set of stories about all of the leading citizens of the town, including Dario. And we learn about this cast of characters not just from the stories, but from the way the stories are told. Dario knew each of these storytellers, and all of them know what happened to Dario. Even the narrator, Fefe, knew but didn't know what happened to Dario.

Why has Fefe returned for this tale? The good citizens of Malihuel concoct many scenarios to explain this (writing a book, making a movie) but Fefe never explains, and the townspeople don't seem to really care. The disappearance of Dario is the 1970s creation myth for Malihuel. It represents every possible human emotion and motivation, and thus while the central facts themselves aren't in question, their meaning is unknowable. Was Dario a leftist, an adulterer, a con man, a coward or a pretty boy? Was he murdered because of one or more of these traits? Unknowable, but as the novel progresses also somewhat irrelevant. Malihuel killed Dario because he wasn't one of the boys and this differentness allowed people to assign to him any characteristic of other that they wanted to eliminate. So sure, eliminate Dario.

In hindsight virtually no one will admit that it was the town itself that decided Dario had to die. No one took responsibility. It just happened. And of course this is a metaphor for what happened throughout Argentina under the military. Individuals had a clear conscience because they, personally, didn't pull the trigger. Plus we needed to cleanse the country of those others. Didn't we?

The novel is not completely successful. The individual narratives drag on for too long, and their number could be reduced. At some point the self-justifying ramblings stop edifying and merely bore. Also the book ends with a discovery about Dario that explains why Fefe returned in search of Dario's story. I thought that was unnecessary and designed to tie-up loose ends. It would have been better to leave the ends frayed without definitive answers to certain questions. Just like in life.
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay 15 Dec 2013
By D.M.X. - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wasn't what I was expecting, but had to have it for one of my seminar class. Not complete use to the whole dialog text throughout the whole novel. Can sometime easily be lost, unless familiar with the authors writing.
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