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Tango for a Torturer Paperback – 20 Apr 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (20 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852428740
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852428747
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,325,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


?Stylish, amusing and full of sex? The Guardian

About the Author

Born in Uruguay, Daniel Chavarría was for many years Professor of Latin, Greek, and Classical literature, devoting much of his time and energy to researching the origins and evolution of prostitution. He has won numerous literary awards around the world including the 1992 Dashiell Hammett Award and the 2002 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Paperback Original for Adios Muchachos.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Lieberson Film London on 1 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback
Chavaria is a master of the noir. if you are interested in sex, suspense, mystery and a great story this is the one for you.
also worth checking ADIOS MUCHACHAS by same writer.
For anybody with an interest in Cuba and the noir genre this is a must.
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By DanSim on 21 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
Daniel Chavarria knows how to put together a plot, and his knowledge of conditions in both Cuba and much of the rest of Latin America (and the world) - he arrived in Cuba back in the late 1960s on a plane that he had hijacked for his family to escape from persecution in Colombia - makes this book so much better than the ones written by foreigners who merely use Cuba as an exotic setting without any real knowledge of the country.
This story about a Uruguayan torturer seeking refuge in Cuba, of all places, captures your attention from the first few pages to the very end. The book not only entertains you, it also teaches you about Latin America, Cuba and the Cubans.
Like the other reviewer I also recommend Chavarria's novel: Adios muchachos
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Persuasive Slice of Cuban Life 11 May 2007
By Author Bill Peschel - Published on
Format: Paperback
Is it the tropical climate? Is it the tradition of Latin American literature? I don't know. All I know about Cuba is derived from "I Love Lucy," so take that into account when I say that Daniel Chavarria's "Tango for a Torturer" comes across as an authentic slice of life in Cuba.

Alberto Rios, a military torturer living the retired good life in Cuba is spotted by Aldo Bianchi, one of his former victims, who plots to frame him for a man's death. Helping him is his mistress, Bini, who's incredibly hot but also emotionally unstable.

It's set in Cuba, but Castro makes as much an appearance as George Bush would in my life. He's background noise. Instead, we're given the native's tour, of people scraping by from day to day, working at their jobs, making a little money on the side, staying out of trouble and taking time to live the good life when they can afford it.

But there's some political moments. Rios (aka Triple O) is a psychotic who made torturing political prisoners his career. Reading that he perfected his craft at Devil's Horn, Fla., and Fort Paramount, Ga., raises the point that the uses of persuasion (as Rios would put it) wasn't institutionalized by Bush, no matter what Seymour Hersh says.

Chavarria loves to take little side trips with the story. There's Dr. Azua, the defense attorney, a Cuban combination of Perry Mason and Nero Wolfe, who infallibly determines the guilt or innocence of his clients by laying hands on them. Then there's the homicide detective, Captain Bastidas, called in to investigate the hit-and-run death of a bicyclist in the rain. I can tell you much about his life, but he plays his role early on and doesn't show up again.

What would a New York editor make of this? Would she read the nine pages devoted to a surprise party for Aldo, or the 11 pages at the end describing another party, this time in prison, and suggest they'd be cut back? There's also plenty of backstory about Rios and his career as a torturer (or as he would tell himself, as an expert in the science of persuasion), about Bini's life, from a little girl to doing time in prison and her work as a mistress. Are all these details really necessary?

But I wouldn't cut a word. Maybe they do things different in another country. Perhaps it's the reader, trained to read books with tight plots, minimal digression, and endings that seem drawn more from genre fiction -- the biter biting, the worm turning, the fatal weakness lifting the lever of tragedy -- than from the concatenation of events. Whatever. Reading this takes you out of the country and into a very different but familiar world. It's a cool book.
Very Much Worth a Read 3 Jan. 2015
By Joe K - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I’m not going to lie to you: I decided to read this book almost entirely based on this author bio: "Daniel Chavarría, a former Tupamaros who hijacked a plane to fly himself to Havana in 1969, is a Uruguayan writer with two passions: classical literature and prostitutes." I figured that anyone with that background was almost bound to be a decent story-teller. Given that the book was exploring the reverberations of the era of military dictators in the Southern Cone (an interest area of mine) I thought it was bound to be entertaining at the very least.

I wasn’t disappointed. The book, a dark political novel about an Argentinean expatriate businessman’s plot for revenge against the man who tortured him and killed his girlfriend on behalf of the military dictatorship set in the late 1990s in Cuba, weaves one hell of a tale.

It’s definitely a yarn with seriousness of purpose rather than high-minded literature. Chavarría may name-check Borges, Homer and Donald Westlake within a few pages, but his story shares much more DNA with the work of the latter than the former two. It’s a gritty novel of weaving conspiracies and people getting in touch with their basic instincts, where the protagonist may be out for revenge for the most understandable reasons possible but is still at least in part trying to cover up his own misdeeds and deal with the evil in his own soul. Though it ends on a surprising hopeful note, the world it exists in is one where morality is cheaply bought and sold, bad men prosper by working with other bad men and justice is assured to almost no one. Compelling and thought-provoking, and comic in a black way, but it’s a novel meant to be enjoyed rather than analyzed too closely.

There may have been something going on with the structure that went over my head (I was not a literature major of any kind), but it struck me as having some rough spots writing-wise. A lot of poorly executed info-dumping, a slow start and wherever Chavarría lost sight of the central plot thread of the battle between the vengeful Aldo Bianchi and the sadistic Orlando Ortega Ortiz it often dragged. If you’re a fan of tightly-conceived plots you’re going to scream – it turns on not one, but two truly incredible coincidences.

That being said, the book legitimately kept me guessing where it was going until the very last pages and offered some insight into life in Cuba in the later Castro years unfamiliar to me as someone who is not really a student of the country and into Afro-Cuban culture and religion in particular.

It also offered an intriguing take on Chavarría’s central broad theme: the psychology of the torturer and the tortured and the nature of cruelty. Triple-O is a thoroughly and unrepentantly repulsive character, with every bad quality one could be assigned and clearly intended to be a sociopath from his teen years – but we still get to spend enough time in his head with him thinking about his work to be chilled. He is not someone motivated by duty or country or anyone of what he would consider imbecile nonsense. He is someone who rejects a great deal of the moral trappings of modern society as essentially false, who believes cruelty is central to human nature and is willing to use whatever tools are at his disposal for his own gain. The fact that he was naturally a torturer and simply found a way to do so professionally was not quite as interesting a choice for me personally as it could have been, but he rings true enough as a character to be profoundly disturbing. The scars he left on Bianchi reveal themselves a little more slowly, but do speak to the devastating impact these horrors leave long after the physical harm is over and to the difficulty of trying to live with one’s self with these things in your past.

Very much worth a read.
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