A Jour­ney through the Ghost Towns of Patag­o­nia

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Translation -

María So­nia Cristoff, Kather­ine Sil­ver (Trans­la­tor), Tran­sit Books (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $16.95 (225pp), 978-1-945492-14-3

Per­sonal mem­oir, trav­el­ogue, and history com­bine in María So­nia Cristoff’s False Calm, a jour­ney that peels back the lay­ers of the ghostly fog blan­ket­ing Patag­o­nia to re­veal en­gross­ing com­plex­ity. With quiet in­tro­spec­tion, Cristoff trav­els this ne­glected re­gion, oc­ca­sion­ally not­ing tid­bits of its history. Her chron­i­cling is never a dry re­port­ing of facts; rather, she gives Patag­o­nia a face—even mul­ti­ple faces—as she draws out riv­et­ing sto­ries from peo­ple whom many might other­wise ig­nore. Fran­cisco, an en­thu­si­as­tic pilot, de­lights in the feel­ing of fly­ing. Ramiro is a Catholic priest in train­ing who finds wis­dom in the writ­ings of Charles de Fou­cauld. Un­der the shadow of the lo­cal leg­end of Maru­chito—the venge­ful spirit of a mur­dered boy—milka is at­tempt­ing to unite the women of El Cuy to help heal the di­vide be­tween evan­gel­i­cals and Catholics. San­dra is con­vinced there is a con­spir­acy to con­trol the peo­ple of Las Heras through tele­vi­sion and the in­va­sion of dreams. Ev­ery­where, the kalei­do­scope of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence is ev­i­dent. In il­lu­mi­nat­ing mo­ments, Cristoff turns the mir­ror upon her­self. Never in­tru­sive or self-in­dul­gent, these in­stances slide seam­lessly into her vi­brant ta­pes­try. A dis­cus­sion of Han­ni­bal Lec­tor en­ters the nar­ra­tive and is a sur­pris­ingly pi­quant ex­am­i­na­tion of the way a writer con­sumes the sto­ries of oth­ers, mak­ing them a part of her­self. Cristoff also rev­els in books as an es­cape and con­fronts “that old anx­i­ety, that fear of be­ing trapped” in El Caín where it is “im­pos­si­ble for [her] to read.” Sketched in lovely prose, False Calm opens up vis­tas to the true heart of Patag­o­nia. The tur­bu­lence within the in­hab­i­tants whom Cristoff en­coun­ters be­lies the re­gion’s hal­cyon fa­cade.

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