CRÍTICA. El resto de su vida.
Publicado en la revista World Literature Today, por Nora Glickman, Queens College, CUNY.
Once more, as in Nadie alzaba la voz (1994), Paula Varsavsky has written a short novel of self-revelation; this time, however, it is not about the pas-sage from childhood to adulthood but rather the outcome of a failed marriage that opens new, exciting possibilities for her protagonist, saving her from a dull existence. El resto de su vida (The remain-der of her life) serves as a preamble to a better life, which the protagonist forges for herself after a search into her own past. This is a quest that leads Andrea to a separation from her husband, a theater director, during which she will learn from her previous mistakes and not be sub-servient any longer. The novel ties stories of Andrea's fortuitous encounters with Horacio, an old friend exiled in London, on his return to Argentina. Such meetings take Andrea back to her college years and renew her desire to establish a sentimental relationship.
As for Horacio, his search for his long-lost niece exposes him to the discovery of the underground world of disappearances, kidnappings, and stealing of babies from imprisoned women that marked the years of the dictatorship (1976-82). From the dark memories that involve the protagonists' meetings, new situations emerge. As a result of the military dictatorship, both Horacio and his niece were forced into forming new families—his in London after being tortured in an Argentine prison, hers in Buenos Aires as an adopted child after her parents were murdered. Hence, the novel poses disquieting questions: Are family bonds strong enough to warrant lasting relationships, when relatives have been, in effect, total strangers from one another?
Can closeness be established merely out of mutual convenience? Having lived in London through the Falkland War, England ceases to be Horacio's favorite country; yet he realizes he has no other country to go back to.
Buenos Aires, the place to where Horacio would have wished to return and settle, is also the city where he had planned to exact revenge from his torturers; as a result he views it as an inhospitable metropolis that reflects the hypocrisy and superficiality of its population. As a psychologist who deals with other people's lives, Andrea only begins to become independent after her separation, at age forty-three. She slowly rebuilds her life by overcoming her blase attitude toward her patients' trivial stories and by socializing periodically with other women in situations similar to her own.
Varsavsky's style is characterized by broken sentences. Andrea's reporting of her daily conversations with her patients and relatives are constantly interrupted by her introspective thoughts. Her thoughts run simultaneously with Horacio's stories about the sordidness of Argentina's past, the open wounds caused by nine years of repression, the dis-appearances, and the rare, dramatic reappearances. While Andrea's sessions are intended to be therapeutic to her patients, she is actually in as much need of help as they are since she cannot overcome the shame of having been abandoned by her husband. Frustrated in her search for real-life models, she draws from and even recommends the examples of heroines like Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina. By holding her therapy practice in her own home, Andrea allows her daily routine and domestic preoccupations to conflict with her profession. Although this verges on the unethical, it works as a fictional device, as it reveals Paula Varsavsky's originality in juxtaposing the conventional behavior of her protagonist with her reflections and preoccupations.