The End of the Story

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The End of the Story
Liliana Heker
Trans. Andrea G. Labinger
Biblioasis, Spring 2012
184 pages
$16.95

Type: metafiction, urgent

Lens: kaleidoscopic

Tones: questioning, contemplative, analytic, detached wryness

Concerning: myopic Diana Glass, an aspiring writer in Buenos Aires, 1976

And: her friend Leonora, an activist who’s been “disappeared” by the military junta and who, after undergoing horrific torture, works with the junta to “rehabilitate” other activists deemed worthy, and, to top it all off, has an affair with her prison guard, known as the Shark

Plus: Hertha Bechofen, an older writer and Austrian refugee

In the form of: Hertha telling us Diana’s fragmented attempts at telling Leonora’s story

Perspective and time slippage: often

Writing advice offered: begin the story when everything is almost over

The crux: survival vs. loyalty

Questions: How do you make sense of someone you thought you knew? Do the ends justify the means?

Dilemmas occasionally reminiscent of: Sophie’s Choice

With references to: the righteousness of Robin Hood vs. the absurdity of Alice in Wonderland

Most repeated sentence: “She was born to live life to the fullest.”

Sentence to copy down (and eat): “Leonora, always knowing her place in the world, was all bosom, milk, and opulence.”

Sentence to say aloud (and fear): “’Fuck psychology,’ Sixfingers says. ‘I want results.’”

Minor setback: the baroque structure – but it’s worth the effort

Major setback: none

But is it controversial?: Well, yes, very.

Physiological reactions: page gripping, cringing, back-of-the-neck shivers (torture scenes are explicit).

Intellectual reactions: frequent questioning, an immediate desire to reread

Further reading, for something über-intellectual, intertextual, and affecting: Ricardo Piglia’s Artificial Respiration 

For something dark and wry and screwed up in the best possible dystopian way: Ana María Shua’s Death as a Side Effect 

For a rich novel big on storytelling and almost entirely in dialogue: Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman