This short novel (published originally in Spanish as a novella) centers on the walk through central Santa Fe Argentina by Leto, a young provincial newly arrived in the city who works as a bookkeeper and the Mathematician, a member of a local ruling family who has just returned from a long sojourn through many of the large cities of Europe. While the two make an odd couple on this walk, with the Mathematician tanned and athletic, dressed completely in white, including fashionable white Italian loafers worn without socks and Leto in his cheap work suit, they are bound together by their connection to Tomatis, and by the story of the 65th birthday party for Washington. But neither of them attended the party, so the description is hearsay. The analogy presented to us is a diamond. Millions of facets, equal, transparent, false. "Leaving the event in question with so little reality that the value of the interpretation itself is made problematic."
On one level we have a narrator, who periodically turns the diamond to remind you who is narrating "-man, we were saying, or rather yours truly, the author, was saying,". On another level you have the hilarity of this confused dialog, spoken both externally and as interior dialog. while this odd couple walks down a crowded sidewalk and maneuvers between cars stuck in traffic. At one point the Mathematician is unable to move forward, afraid to squeeze between two cars and soil his white clothes. Looking at the wealthy liberal in his silly whites, Leto thinks "they would give everything, just not their pants. They can accept anything but a stain on their pants."
But on the most profound level, this is a disturbing novel about the Argentina of brutal military suppression of democratic rights that led to many people, including the author, to choose between emigration, living a suppressed life within the country or suffering a violent death, often under torture. Each of the main characters suffers one of these fates, which is brusquely described in a few factual paragraphs. The facts of someone's death can be told clearly, in few words. But the ambiguity of their lives and the events they share, are much harder to describe, and impossible to objectively understand. In the meandering walk and conversation many ideas are touched upon, but nothing is resolved, nor understood. This leaves the reader with an eerie sense of unease, especially since the narrator has brusquely explained the future of these characters. Brutal futures.
One complaint: who the heck decided on this simply awful title? The Spanish title is Glosa, which has a variety of related meanings, but basically translates as commentary. And this clearly describes what the Mathematician and Leto are doing as they discuss a party neither attended. I can only think that calling it The Sixty-Five Years of Washington is someone's lame attempt to attract United States readers with a name that sounds reassuringly familiar. What a mistake!