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September 14, 2008 / schulerbooks

Three Musketeers, by Marcelo Birmajer

Every once in a while, you get your hands on a book that defies easy explanation. Some call that a hallmark of “literature.” Others, an overblown mess. But when you’re dealing with a complex work like “Three Musketeers,” you… oh, wait, this is the wrong way to start this. Never mind.


Kidnapping! Left-Wing Argentinean radicals! Jewishness! Sodomy! All these flavors combine to… um. No.


Ever get the idea that it was a really, really bad idea to be a radical left-wing Peronist, and a Jew, in the Dirty Wars that took place in Argentina? Our somewhat nebbishy hero, Javier, thinks he knows that, but when a living legend returns from Israel … er… wait. No NO NO!


Okay, straight up: this book is good, you should read it, and here’s why — it’s good and you should read it. And it’s funny, too. There, I said it.

What, you need more? After all that? Jeez. Make me work, why don’t you.

Funny you should do that! See, work is the problem of Javier Mossen, too. He’s a reporter who doesn’t care to report any more than he has to. He’s heartbroken because his girl tossed him out, but won’t quite cut him out of her life completely. He spends his days wrapped up in sodomy-driven sex dreams and crushing self-doubts.

And then he gets handed a real story he can’t refuse by his long-suffering editor. An old radical, long-escaped to Israel, is back in town, and he wants Javier to interview this elusive Elias Traum about his politics, his Jewishness, and whatever else he can get out of him. Problem is, his interviewee gets kidnapped from the airport almost right in front of him (Javier gets beaten down in the process) and then roughed up, robbed and dumped on the side of the road.

Suddenly the story becomes not only real, but dangerous — and his editor takes him off it, because the story is now about “something else.” But Javier’s too deep in, now: he’s involved, his mom’s involved, his girl is involved, the past is involved… heck, even the hot woman at work who answers the phone is involved. And the reasons why they’re all involved with each other take the rest of this short, zippy novel to answer: something of a Bildungsroman, only with lots of alcohol and uniquely Jewish self-questioning, a hearty dash of danger and leftist politics, and more than enough kinky fantasy bits to keep the people who got in for those salacious parts interested, right up to the end.

Wait, we’re not done yet? What else do you want me to say?

(sigh) Okay, the guy who wrote this is — and I’m taking the flier insert’s word on this — “The Woody Allen of Pampas”: a prominent writer of over 20 books and screenplays whose style is not anything like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, any of his imitators, or anything approaching the modern-day leprosy that is magic realism.

(And that bit about magic realism being leprosy wasn’t in the insert, that was me. Okay?)

Anyway, it’s good, it’s coming out this October (originally published in Spanish in 2001) and you should read it. Because then my self-worth will be validated. Totally.

(Reviewed by Jim Tremlett)


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