Olguin, Sergio. “The Fragility of Bodies”, translated by Miranda France, Bitter Lemon Press, 2019.
Reopening a Cold Case
I do not often get the chance to read and review books from Argentina so when the opportunity is there, I jump at it. For me, one of the main reasons I love about reading is learning about how others live.
Veronica Rosenthal, a journalist hears about the suicide of a Buenos Aires train driver who has left a note confessing to four mortal ‘accidents’ on the train tracks and she decides to investigate. The police see suicide as a closed case but for Veronica this is the beginning of a journey that takes her into a world she is unfamiliar with, one of poverty, crime-infested neighborhoods, and train drivers on commuter lines who are haunted by the memory of bodies hit at speed by their locomotives in the middle of the night. Helping her is a train driver with whom she has an affair, a junkie in rehab and two street kids who are willing to risk everything for a can of soda. Veronica uncovers a group of men involved in betting on working-class youngsters convinced to play Russian roulette by standing in front of fast-coming trains to see who lasts the longest.
This becomes more than a simple investigation as we go deep into the psyche of the characters, and play with different points of view. Bodies give us a reflection of a society that is never certain of winning or losing.
Veronica Rosenthal is a journalist, an investigator and an anti-hero in an excellent addition to the Argentine noir tradition. She discovers much more than a web of corruption including her deep lust for Lucio the engine driver and her willingness to follow him into a carnal relationship, with unforeseeable consequences. This is a powerful novel “that adroitly manipulates the fragility of its readers.”