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- Published on Amazon.com
This slender novel is the first to appear in English from Argentine author/journalist/screenwriter Birmajer. Set in Buenos Aires, its topics are common to much of his work, especially Jewish life in Argentina, marriage/relationships, and the follies of youth. The narrator here is, Javier, a 40ish slacker journalist and nonpracticing Jew, working for a large daily newspaper. Javier's life motto is "don't rock the boat" -- as he aims to write only banal stories, entirely free and clear of any possibly controversy. His other life's work is to sexually fantasize about the women he encounters in the course of his daily life, while pining for his estranged girlfriend (who gave him the boot after he told her of an assignation he had with a 50-something "crone" who lived upstairs from them).
His latest assignment is to interview Elias Traum, who is flying in from Tel Aviv to say kaddish for his two friends of his who died more than twenty years ago. It seems that Elias and his two dead pals were known in some circles as the titular musketeers for their precocious energy, wit, and revolutionary zeal. Alas, in their zeal, the other two joined a left-wing guerrilla group known as the Montoneros, and were killed by government death squads while Elias emigrated to Israel.
When Javier goes the airport to meet Elias, he's attacks and Elias is kidnapped. The scared journalist eventually connects with Elias and bonds with the sympathetic figure. However, as he grows to like the man, his boss suddenly pulls him off the story and puts him on a mandatory vacation. Clearly, something strange is afoot -- but what that is remains rather elusive until the very end. Meanwhile, the story meanders its way around the city, as Javier tries to learn the truth about Elias and his friends, while also trying to get back into the good graces (and pants) of his ex-girlfriend.
While the book's probings into history, memory, and youth, are somewhat interesting, they are probably more so to readers versed in recent Argentine history -- especially the era of the Dirty War. And when the ultimate menace to Elias (and by extension Javier) is revealed, it fails to convince. It's also worth noting that some readers may be put off by rather coarse discussion and graphic treatment of sex in the book. On the while, probably worth dipping into for fans of South American fiction and Jewish Argentine history, but otherwise, not essential reading.