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A decade after fleeing for his life, a man is pulled back to Argentina by an undying love. It was the most obvious thing in the world that I'd follow her wherever she went. I always had. In 1976, Tomás Oriilla is a medical student in Buenos Aires, where he's moved in hopes of reuniting with Isabel, a childhood crush. But the reckless passion that has always drawn him is A decade after fleeing for his life, a man is pulled back to Argentina by an undying love. It was the most obvious thing in the world that I'd follow her wherever she went. I always had. In 1976, Tomás Oriilla is a medical student in Buenos Aires, where he's moved in hopes of reuniting with Isabel, a childhood crush. But the reckless passion that has always drawn him is leading Isabel ever deeper into the ranks of young insurgents fighting an increasingly oppressive regime. As its thuggish milicos begin to disappear more and more people like her, she presents Tomás with a way to prove himself. As always, he'll do anything for Isabel. But what exactly is he proving, and at what cost to them both? It will be years before a summons back arrives for Tomás, now living as Thomas Shore in New York. But it isn't a homecoming that awaits him so much as an odyssey into the past, an encounter with the ghosts that lurk there, and a reckoning with the fatal gap between who he's become and who he once aspired to be. Raising profound questions about the sometimes impossible choices we make in the name of love, Hades, Argentina is a gripping, brilliantly narrated literary debut.


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A decade after fleeing for his life, a man is pulled back to Argentina by an undying love. It was the most obvious thing in the world that I'd follow her wherever she went. I always had. In 1976, Tomás Oriilla is a medical student in Buenos Aires, where he's moved in hopes of reuniting with Isabel, a childhood crush. But the reckless passion that has always drawn him is A decade after fleeing for his life, a man is pulled back to Argentina by an undying love. It was the most obvious thing in the world that I'd follow her wherever she went. I always had. In 1976, Tomás Oriilla is a medical student in Buenos Aires, where he's moved in hopes of reuniting with Isabel, a childhood crush. But the reckless passion that has always drawn him is leading Isabel ever deeper into the ranks of young insurgents fighting an increasingly oppressive regime. As its thuggish milicos begin to disappear more and more people like her, she presents Tomás with a way to prove himself. As always, he'll do anything for Isabel. But what exactly is he proving, and at what cost to them both? It will be years before a summons back arrives for Tomás, now living as Thomas Shore in New York. But it isn't a homecoming that awaits him so much as an odyssey into the past, an encounter with the ghosts that lurk there, and a reckoning with the fatal gap between who he's become and who he once aspired to be. Raising profound questions about the sometimes impossible choices we make in the name of love, Hades, Argentina is a gripping, brilliantly narrated literary debut.

30 review for Hades, Argentina

  1. 4 out of 5

    Katia N

    The novel is devoted to the “Dirty War” in Argentina. It is also a story of a tragic first love. At the centre of the novel is the fate of a young woman, the member of a military revolutionary group, who has been disappeared. And, in the words of the author: “A friend and former lover of hers plagued by guilt for his role in her fate descends into the warped underworld of memory and the 1970s Argentina he’d managed to escape, and there tries to bring her back to life and grant himself redemption. The novel is devoted to the “Dirty War” in Argentina. It is also a story of a tragic first love. At the centre of the novel is the fate of a young woman, the member of a military revolutionary group, who has been disappeared. And, in the words of the author: “A friend and former lover of hers plagued by guilt for his role in her fate descends into the warped underworld of memory and the 1970s Argentina he’d managed to escape, and there tries to bring her back to life and grant himself redemption.”  Usually for me the appearance of the ghosts as characters would be a red flag. I am not big fan of a gothic or magic realism. But here, the whole underworld frame is more like a metaphysical analogy - a trip though the main character’s memory lane. It reminded me another recent novel about the similar period of awful terror from another part of the world: The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree. There, the ghost was the main narrator and the novel, in my view, lacked the moral complexity and was overloaded with well known tropes. Here, on the contrary, the moral complexity and the choices of each character is fully realised. This is probably the strongest feature of the novel. The ghosts are more like decorations of a scene along with the streets of Buenos Aires. I appreciated that this element did not go far beyond that of a metaphor. Not all worked for me in this novel. It seemed slightly over-designed in some ways. The author is trying to spell out a few things which might be easily understood without it. For example, Tomas, the main character is initially accompanied by the Colonel, his mentor. And, we are literally pointed towards Virgil and Dante. Also sometimes, the research almost explicitly reveals itself in the text. There is a scene, albeit short, of a torture experienced by the main character from insight. And I could not make myself believe it. I do not think anyone could make such a scene credible first person without surviving something so horrific. But the book’s strong feature is the authencity of feelings, unflinching look into the complexity of choices everyone had to make in such extreme situations. Were those actions really choices in a way how we understand the word? I also enjoyed the quality of prose. It is spare, not rushed and contemplative. It has reminded me Javier Marias, but it is much less transgressive though. It is a rare case in my experience when my impression after reading this book was boosted by reading the article by the author about how this novel has come to exist. His half-sister has been disappeared in Argentina in 1976. 10 years after that, he was born in America. She was the subject his Dad and the older half-brother did not talk about much. But when Daniel has become an adult, he decided to find out more about her and ended up responsible for the proper burial of her remains, which neither his dad not his half brother wanted to attend. So in fact, he has brought her back from oblivion in some way. And, I think this real attempt somehow is even more poignant that what he has done in the novel. The article also raised two interesting points I end up thinking a lot. The first one, after the end of the Dirty War, the victims and the perpetrators needed to share their country. As Daniel mentions, one might accidentally meet her torturer in a cafe, but also “all of whom were eradicated, were viewed with suspicion and blame, and those who had kept quiet, passively acceding to the junta, continued to keep quiet. There is a reason my Argentine friend was squeamish at the thought of what happened in the ESMA and didn’t want to see it.” Some people like the main character of the novel have escaped the country. But all of them, it seems, struggled with a mixture of the guilt of complacency and a deep trauma. Understandably, unlike the main character, they did not want to bring those times and those victims back both into their private lives and in the public discourse. This is the question I always struggle with. What is the best way in such situations how to keep the memories without retaining anger, hate and bitterness. Is it at all possible? For Daniel’s father, the act of investigating his daughter’s final hours and the subsequent burial of her remains did not bring any change. “There is no peace to this, he’d say. No redemption. No meaning.” It reminded me another book and another struggle I’ve read. In In Memory of Memory, Maria Stepanova asked herself a similar question albeit in a less tragic circumstances. She looked through the private correspondence of her deceased relatives and contemplated whether to quote them at length in her book. She said “To quote those letters would mean to save them; to leave then in a box - was to subdue them to another bout darkness (may be forever). Who apart from me would decide which course to chose. The dead do not have any rights. They are not asked” And that is the question. Do they have any rights or not? Would the girl who died at 22, killed in a political struggle, would she like the idea that her memory got a tribute in a piece of fiction? I do not know. But it seems these actions of writing a novel or of citing the old letters are meaningful. They seen to bring a closure to the next generation, not the ones who lived through. Those are silent. But to their children who have their own experience of a guilt, the guilt that they are not the ones who has been there. PS This the article: https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/a... Thank you very much, Bert for pointing me that way.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roma

    Daniel Loedel's prose has the same melancholic feeling as a tango song. It's tinged with nostalgia and sentiment. It's mesmerising and beautiful and it perfectly encapsulates the essence of the story being told: one of regret; fleeting youth and youthful love; and the search for atonement. The novel opens in New York, 1986. Tomás Orilla, unhappily married, plagued by nightmares, receives a summons to come back to Buenos Aires to bid farewell to the dying mother of his first love, Isabel. It's bee Daniel Loedel's prose has the same melancholic feeling as a tango song. It's tinged with nostalgia and sentiment. It's mesmerising and beautiful and it perfectly encapsulates the essence of the story being told: one of regret; fleeting youth and youthful love; and the search for atonement. The novel opens in New York, 1986. Tomás Orilla, unhappily married, plagued by nightmares, receives a summons to come back to Buenos Aires to bid farewell to the dying mother of his first love, Isabel. It's been 10 years since he fled under a false name, at the height of Argentina's "Dirty War", when thousands of people were tortured and 'disappeared' by the military. Under the guidance of his old mentor, the Colonel (the Virgil to Tomás' Dante), Tomás journeys through Hades, Argentina in search of his lost love Isabel. Along the way he must relive his memories and face up to the role he played in the torture centre, and the choices he made, and the paths he didn't take - what could've been. I loved the way Loedel writes his characters. The Colonel represents the military; The Priest (one of the torturers) portrays the insidiousness of the Catholic Church and its' role in Argentine politics; Isabel is the fanatic rebel, ready to die for a cause she doesn't fully understand; and Tomás represents the everyman, the bystander. Guilty in his compliancy. They still remain, however, fully fleshed-out characters, far away from being caricatures. At its' heart, the novel poses some pretty heavy questions about morality and the nature of choices and free-will. It's a captivating read and a fascinating look at an extremely disturbing period of Argentine history. Don't ignore it!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jacque

    (thanks to Netgally for the free ARC, which was given to me in exchange for an honest review) I can't say enough good things about Hades, Argentina. This is the type of writing that crawls under your skin and makes a home somewhere deep inside you, never to be forgotten. The story is made up of haunting descriptions of the life of an incredibly complex and compelling main character, Tomas - a former medical student at a torture center in Argentina in 1976, immediately after the military coup. Toma (thanks to Netgally for the free ARC, which was given to me in exchange for an honest review) I can't say enough good things about Hades, Argentina. This is the type of writing that crawls under your skin and makes a home somewhere deep inside you, never to be forgotten. The story is made up of haunting descriptions of the life of an incredibly complex and compelling main character, Tomas - a former medical student at a torture center in Argentina in 1976, immediately after the military coup. Tomas returns to Argentina a decade after he escapes, hoping for some sort of closure, when the ghost of his former mentor The Colonel comes to him. The Colonel tells Tomas that he could break his former lover, Isabel, out of the underworld. Thus begins a quest similar to that of Orpheus to rescue Eurydice, in which Tomas must travel back through his own memories of his time working at the torture center, nicknamed Automotores, as he descends deeper into Hades. Throughout the story, readers slowly encounter the insidiousness and hardships of the 1976 regime in Argentina, described in such a way that American audiences rarely experience. Reading this novel felt like walking through a dream, you don't know if what you're reading is real or a memory or an imagined past, but it doesn't ultimately matter. The scenes piece together like a puzzle, ultimately allowing the reader to step back and marvel at the immensity of the story. It's easy to empathize with each character, to understand why they're doing what they do even if their actions are objectively horrible. The guiding question, so to speak, of this book can be summed up in the following quote: "Maybe we get choices, but what good are they when they're like that?" The writing explores the idea of choice, the decisions people make when forced into dangerous and terrifying situations, and the possibility of striving for morality in a world with no concept of it. Overall, Hades, Argentina, is a heavy story, but it is also illuminating and human and important. Do yourself a favor and read this book!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Melpomene

    So this book is why I love my job:))) this is pretty good for a debut novel. I'm looking forward for his future books. His writing style was so melancholic and calming and the Argentinian scenery added to this atmosphere. I didn't care about the story itself, though the story was good too but I mostly wanted to degust every single word. It felt like I'm dancing an Argentine tango and drinking sweet honey at the same time. So this book is why I love my job:))) this is pretty good for a debut novel. I'm looking forward for his future books. His writing style was so melancholic and calming and the Argentinian scenery added to this atmosphere. I didn't care about the story itself, though the story was good too but I mostly wanted to degust every single word. It felt like I'm dancing an Argentine tango and drinking sweet honey at the same time.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Noel

    Visceral, haunting, and utterly magnetic, HADES, ARGENTINA is the story of a man who returns to Argentina and is forced to confront the ghosts of his past—including the love of his life, who was disappeared during the Dirty War. This stunning book is about the impossible choices we make for love, the complex nature of guilt, and the lingering pull of the past. It’s both political and deeply intimate—and based on the author’s own family history, making it all the more powerful. It’s genuinely nar Visceral, haunting, and utterly magnetic, HADES, ARGENTINA is the story of a man who returns to Argentina and is forced to confront the ghosts of his past—including the love of his life, who was disappeared during the Dirty War. This stunning book is about the impossible choices we make for love, the complex nature of guilt, and the lingering pull of the past. It’s both political and deeply intimate—and based on the author’s own family history, making it all the more powerful. It’s genuinely narrated and truly unlike anything else I’ve ever read. HADES, ARGENTINA is a novel I won’t soon forget and one I really hope you’ll read!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bert Hirsch

    Book Review-Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel This first novel by the writer David Loedel is a winning effort. Set during the tumultuous years 1976 to 1986 we follow the main character, Tomas Orilla, as he attempts to revisit and reclaim his life. Growing up in Mar del Plata he is entwined with his mother’s friend Pichuca and her two daughters, Isabel and Nerea. Enamored he develops a lasting crush on Isa, a strong willed, beguiling, mysterious young woman. As the military dictatorship takes hold Book Review-Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel This first novel by the writer David Loedel is a winning effort. Set during the tumultuous years 1976 to 1986 we follow the main character, Tomas Orilla, as he attempts to revisit and reclaim his life. Growing up in Mar del Plata he is entwined with his mother’s friend Pichuca and her two daughters, Isabel and Nerea. Enamored he develops a lasting crush on Isa, a strong willed, beguiling, mysterious young woman. As the military dictatorship takes hold both sisters become active members of the Montaneros, urban guerillas who form a revolutionary cadre inspired by the Argentine Che Guevara. Tomas, more interested in his studies, chess and obsessive love allows Isa to recruit him. As a young boy, Tomas is mentored in his chess studies by The Colonel, a military man whose childless marriage feeds a paternal relationship with Tomas. The book captures well how a young man’s first crush can be hard to navigate on an emotional level yet this tale, with the overload of the military dictatorship reign of terror, results in it being even more devastating. At Isabel’s direction Tomas ingratiates himself to The Colonel and weasels his way into a part-time job at the Automotores, a converted garage in the outskirts of Buenos Aires where he spies for the Montaneros. There he cleans rooms and, as a medical student, is instructed to give injections of sodium pentothal which are disguised as mere vaccinations to the prisoners who are “drugged and then dropped into the depths of the Rio de la Plata”. He struggles to balance his secondary role in the torture process with the knowledge that he is providing valuable information to the revolutionary effort. This becomes an even heavier endeavor when he reveals to Isa the identity of one of the main torturers called, The Priest, who is then assassinated which leads to an investigation at the Automotores. While Tomas evades suspicion, it later comes back to him when he aids a Uruguayan activist and a young female American prisoner whom he is attracted to. They escape, a guard is killed and, shortly thereafter, the Automotores is shut down. Tomas is helped by the Colonel to obtain a passport and escapes to Rome and then the United States. The story nimbly moves to and fro between the years 1976 when the events occurred, and 1986 when Tomas returns to visit Pachuca on her deathbed. The story exists in both time zones and are intertangled with dreams and ghosts which are fueled by his own unresolved feelings of guilt, remorse, and unrequited love. Daniel Loedel, impressively here in his very first novel, has created a touching, sometime riveting tale, much in the tradition of great Argentine literature. The writer he most reminds me of is the late Tomas Eloy Martinez and his books, Purgatory and The Tango Singer (as I make this connection I wonder if the main character’s name influenced my association or is it purposeful on the author’s part). The author states that this book was inspired by his own sister’s disappearance at the hands of the military dictatorship. This work is a testament to her memory, and is a great addition to the literature of these times.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Taryn | Mentally Booked

    4.5 stars

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    Loedel's half sister's demise at the hands of the military became the impetus for this ghostly haunting exploration of Argentina's dirty war during 1976-1983. She was a part of the Montoneros rebel group which figures prominently in this novel. Underpinning the novel is an unrequited love between the narrator, Tomas and his childhood friend Isabel who has been heavily entrenched in the Montoneros movement. Unfortunately his love for her eventually leads to his downfall. We first meet Tomas in 19 Loedel's half sister's demise at the hands of the military became the impetus for this ghostly haunting exploration of Argentina's dirty war during 1976-1983. She was a part of the Montoneros rebel group which figures prominently in this novel. Underpinning the novel is an unrequited love between the narrator, Tomas and his childhood friend Isabel who has been heavily entrenched in the Montoneros movement. Unfortunately his love for her eventually leads to his downfall. We first meet Tomas in 1986 when he is a hallowed out shell from his former self, anesthetized with lethargy and indifference. However, 10 years ago in 1976, Tomas was a medical student in Buenos Aires. Tomas is lured back to this beginning to re -examine his agonizing role in the past and to observe the decisions he made which led to his escape from Argentina. Isabel wanted him to join the movement and to volunteer at the Automotores Orletti, a detention center for "disappeared" prisoners while functioning as a Montonero undercover agent, asking his military friend the "Colonel" to get him a position. This traumatic experience unravels him as he witnesses unspeakable depravities but is helpless in redressing the situation. I found it hard to inhabit his world..I became disoriented as to what was real, what was a dream, what rabbit hole I was funneling through. The power of the book and the complexities of that time period and Peronism felt like an anvil on my chest. I appreciated the artistry and ghoulish underworld that the author created, but I am afraid I fell into Hades myself.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Again)

    4.5 stars

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Most people have an impression of who they are and can identify their futures based on their values. Then life happens to them and they wonder how much freedom they really had in self determination. They question how their lives ended up where they did and when they veered off their original course. I imagine few lives get derailed as much as during war. This novel describes this introspection of a man disappeared during the Dirty War in Argentina after he fled the resistance against the militar Most people have an impression of who they are and can identify their futures based on their values. Then life happens to them and they wonder how much freedom they really had in self determination. They question how their lives ended up where they did and when they veered off their original course. I imagine few lives get derailed as much as during war. This novel describes this introspection of a man disappeared during the Dirty War in Argentina after he fled the resistance against the military dictatorship then returned 10 years later. Trust and betrayal go both ways when everyone is trying to survive and he learned more about the depth of betrayal in his reflection as he was led through Dante’s Purgatorio. The surrealism and blurred timeline gets clunky in places but the novel is intense and interesting.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cliff.Hanger.Books

    Tomas Shore, returns to Argentina after running away from himself and his role in a dictatorship that made 30.000 persons disappear during the 1970’s to find himself overwhelmed by memories of those years and the people he used to know. I think Loedel’s narrative is a perfect illustration of places where meanings collapse: reality and dreams, past and present, right and wrong, love and jealousy overlapping allowing the reader to feel in a similar daze to the one Tomas experience is his return to Tomas Shore, returns to Argentina after running away from himself and his role in a dictatorship that made 30.000 persons disappear during the 1970’s to find himself overwhelmed by memories of those years and the people he used to know. I think Loedel’s narrative is a perfect illustration of places where meanings collapse: reality and dreams, past and present, right and wrong, love and jealousy overlapping allowing the reader to feel in a similar daze to the one Tomas experience is his return to the chaos of Buenos Aires. If you don’t know anything about Argentinian history, don’t worry, the author manages to sum up the countries convoluted history in paragraphs that made make you feel it’s vertiginous nature. Personally, I hadn’t feel like this about a books in a while. I’m grateful he wrote this in English, nothing gets lost in translation and every word he writes matters. Lastly, it’s nice to read a Latin American perspective about life in Latin America and not only about life in the US for a change. I can’t recommend this book enough!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    beautiful writing and characters but the story moved a lot slower than i prefer loved learning about argentinian history and culture

  13. 5 out of 5

    Beth Anne

    I cannot recommend this book enough! Loedel takes us on a journey across time and through societal and personal upheavals in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires. I pondered if this book qualifies as magical realism and, to be honest, I am not sure. However, this book is magical with relatable human struggles and repulsive human violence. Although this is his first novel, I hope that this is not Daniel Loedel's last. Do yourself a favor and travel to different decades with different personalities I cannot recommend this book enough! Loedel takes us on a journey across time and through societal and personal upheavals in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires. I pondered if this book qualifies as magical realism and, to be honest, I am not sure. However, this book is magical with relatable human struggles and repulsive human violence. Although this is his first novel, I hope that this is not Daniel Loedel's last. Do yourself a favor and travel to different decades with different personalities in this amazing read. P.S. If you love this book as much as I did, I would recommend that you also read Perla.

  14. 5 out of 5

    LAErin

    A grim, gripping and devastating novel. The story sent me off to do more reading about this bleak chapter of Argentina’s history, which I appreciate.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Past, present, and purgatory become muddled in this dream-like novel about guilt and the consequences of complicity. Hades, Argentina begins in 1986 when Tomás Orilla returns to Buenos Aires after fleeing the Dirty War 10 years before. His visit serves the dual purpose of avoiding his crumbling marriage to an American woman and reuniting with his supreme love Isabel. But while Tomás was "disappeared" through exile, he learns from his once-mentor Colonel Felipe Gorlero that Isabel was "disappeared Past, present, and purgatory become muddled in this dream-like novel about guilt and the consequences of complicity. Hades, Argentina begins in 1986 when Tomás Orilla returns to Buenos Aires after fleeing the Dirty War 10 years before. His visit serves the dual purpose of avoiding his crumbling marriage to an American woman and reuniting with his supreme love Isabel. But while Tomás was "disappeared" through exile, he learns from his once-mentor Colonel Felipe Gorlero that Isabel was "disappeared" through murder. And like Isabel, the Colonel is also dead. With his spectral guide, Tomás revisits what was and what could have been in 1976. Hades, Argentina is a challenging novel both in its subject matter and its presentation. Author Daniel Loedel unflinchingly details the torture performed in state-sponsored detention centers. And the relationship between Tomás and Isabel is characterized by obsession, manipulation, and heartache. As for the book's presentation, there is a surreal, fluid transition between memory, the real world, and the spectral world. A haunting novel. Loedel's writing is sensuous and suffused with a bleak sense of humor. An impressive debut and an impactful read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Hades, Argentina combines my love of political fiction with my need for fantastical explorations of death and trauma, all in a compulsively readable package that slips down like gossip from your best friend. Daniel Loedel’s protagonist returns to Argentina after fleeing the Dirty War a decade before, and quite literally has to face the ghosts of his past. The result is a beautifully written, haunting examination of free will, fate, nihilism, and the narratives we tell ourselves to get through th Hades, Argentina combines my love of political fiction with my need for fantastical explorations of death and trauma, all in a compulsively readable package that slips down like gossip from your best friend. Daniel Loedel’s protagonist returns to Argentina after fleeing the Dirty War a decade before, and quite literally has to face the ghosts of his past. The result is a beautifully written, haunting examination of free will, fate, nihilism, and the narratives we tell ourselves to get through the day. I included this in my preview of winter and spring titles for Book & Film Globe: https://bookandfilmglobe.com/fiction/... Thanks to Riverhead and NetGalley for the ARC.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Ghosts haunt this novel of choices set largely in Argentina. Thomas, once Tomas, escaped Argentina in 1976, thanks to the Colonel. He's never fully shared his story, not even with his wife but now he's facing his history. The mother of Isabel, a left wing activist who Tomas loved, is dying and he makes the decision to travel home to see her. What he finds is the chance to confront himself. Isabel persuaded him to exploit his relationship with the Colonel to, she thought, keep tabs on what the go Ghosts haunt this novel of choices set largely in Argentina. Thomas, once Tomas, escaped Argentina in 1976, thanks to the Colonel. He's never fully shared his story, not even with his wife but now he's facing his history. The mother of Isabel, a left wing activist who Tomas loved, is dying and he makes the decision to travel home to see her. What he finds is the chance to confront himself. Isabel persuaded him to exploit his relationship with the Colonel to, she thought, keep tabs on what the government was doing to dissidents. Tomas, a medical student, thought this would work- but he didn't understand, at the time, what it would mean to work at ESMA, a detention center in Buenos Aires. What does it mean to watch people being tortured and say nothing? That's what Tomas must cope with. The colonel asks Tomas to go on a quest of sorts to save Isabel from the underworld (it makes more sense than I do). It helps, I think, to be familiar with events in Argentina during the period in question but if you are not, you'll learn a great deal. In either case, the horror of what people can do to one another in the name of political differences should be a cautionary tale. This is beautifully written. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. A tough read but a worthy one.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Archibald Hampton

    As I started this book, my thought was that it might be another Lincoln in the Bardo. Fortunately it is not. Instead, it is thought-provoking and worth reading.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carly Thompson

    I read about 30% before abandoning it. I found the male character and his view of the beautiful young woman too cliched.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Agustina

    I chose this book because it took place during the time period in which I was born in Buenos Aires. I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. I never quite connected with the main character, Tomas. I also felt lost in the second half of the book, I never knew what was real what wasn’t, what time period we were in. It did not flow for me like it did for some of the other readers, and it just frustrated me. I will say that there’s some interesting (and sad) history here but if you don’t I chose this book because it took place during the time period in which I was born in Buenos Aires. I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. I never quite connected with the main character, Tomas. I also felt lost in the second half of the book, I never knew what was real what wasn’t, what time period we were in. It did not flow for me like it did for some of the other readers, and it just frustrated me. I will say that there’s some interesting (and sad) history here but if you don’t know the background, you will have to go research it. To me the historical aspects were interesting but as I mentioned the story did not do it for me. Hope it does for you!!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Daniel Loedel’s Hades, Argentina is a liminal novel, with its story playing out on the boundaries between the real and the imagined, the moral and the immoral, and the now and the remembered then. It occurs in the mid-1970s, as Argentina deteriorated into societal and political chaos: the ruling establishment and its fearsome agents of state torturing and “disappearing” of its opponents, and its opponents gaining adherents as the depravities and horrors of the ruling establishment became more co Daniel Loedel’s Hades, Argentina is a liminal novel, with its story playing out on the boundaries between the real and the imagined, the moral and the immoral, and the now and the remembered then. It occurs in the mid-1970s, as Argentina deteriorated into societal and political chaos: the ruling establishment and its fearsome agents of state torturing and “disappearing” of its opponents, and its opponents gaining adherents as the depravities and horrors of the ruling establishment became more common and better known. It also occurs in the mid-1980s, as Tomás Orillo (AKA Tom Shore), its story-teller and main character, returns from his escape and exile in first Rome and the U.S.A. to revisit an Argentina recovering from the depredations of the previous regime. The strengths of Hades, Argentina lies in its recreation of the era, time, events, and relationships of the mid-1970s, as seen from Tomás’ vantage point of ten years later. The weaknesses of Hades, Argentina similarly derive from its sometimes clunky attempt to position Tomás’ memories as ghosts accompanying or imagined by him. Unfortunately, Loedel’s frequent crossing of boundaries is not always successful. The subtleties of Loedel’s story-telling, and subtleties there are, lie in his evocation of the moral ambiguities of Tomás’s actions, in the contrast between his rich emotional life with his ghosts and his sterile emotional life with his wife, and especially in questions about whether Tomás acts out of horror at the regime or out of his slavish devotion to Isabel. Is Tomás an opponent of the regime, a pawn of the regime, or merely a pawn of his adolescent adoration of Isabel? Daniel Loedel’s Hades, Argentina is powerful, affecting, and thought-provoking, despite its shortcomings. It’s an important novel, well worth reading as literature and also as a sobering warning. And don’t skip the ending Acknowledgements, which are as gutting as any part of the preceding novel. 3.5 stars

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katie Coleman

    A compelling look at the La Dictatura (the Dirty War) in Argentina in 1976. The more simply told, realistic chapters of this book worked best for me. I sped through these chapters with feelings of horror and heartbreak. Loedel writes from a personal history: his half-sister was "disappeared" under the military junta. At times, I wondered what this book might have looked it if the writer had chosen to tell this story as a work of family history + nonfiction. I got a bit lost in the more surreal v A compelling look at the La Dictatura (the Dirty War) in Argentina in 1976. The more simply told, realistic chapters of this book worked best for me. I sped through these chapters with feelings of horror and heartbreak. Loedel writes from a personal history: his half-sister was "disappeared" under the military junta. At times, I wondered what this book might have looked it if the writer had chosen to tell this story as a work of family history + nonfiction. I got a bit lost in the more surreal venture into the Underworld, and the time travel tricks. I almost felt like it detracted from the pain & gravity of the historical events written about. I had some trouble with the treatment of rape as well, in particularly since violence against women is still a very real issue for the country (see Ni Una Menos). At times, I thought Loedel was trying to hard to convincingly set us in Argentina and it feels like he is ticking off a list of "authentically or iconically Argentine" things to include in his book: Fernet and coke, asados, sandwiches de miga, the diminutive -ito, Carlos Gardel, Boca vs River (there are many, many other teams in BsAs people are mad for), the Bosques of Palermo + the Barrancas of Belgrano. Finally, two different Argentine characters refer to themselves as members of the "third world," something most Argentines today have told me is a pretty offensive/out-dated term. For readers w/o knowledge of this period in Argentine history, I'd recommend this wholeheartedly (5/5), but for those familiar with the history and/or have spent time living in the country, you might find little new here and some things a bit cliche (3/5).

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Not so much a "magic realism" as "magic banality," and impressive because of that. I've never understood 20th century Latin American history, so the novels I've read about it, with the sole exception of "A Long Petal of the Sea" by Isabel Allende, have gone flying over my head. But I don't need an encyclopedic knowledge of the Perónism to understand "Hades, Argentina" because it's about surviving in a fascist state, and I'm guessing its lessons are applicable to Hitler's Germany, Franco's Spain, Not so much a "magic realism" as "magic banality," and impressive because of that. I've never understood 20th century Latin American history, so the novels I've read about it, with the sole exception of "A Long Petal of the Sea" by Isabel Allende, have gone flying over my head. But I don't need an encyclopedic knowledge of the Perónism to understand "Hades, Argentina" because it's about surviving in a fascist state, and I'm guessing its lessons are applicable to Hitler's Germany, Franco's Spain, Trump's America if things had gone a little differently last November, etc etc. The hero (such as he is), Tomas, is a marionette with two puppeteers: a manipulative leftist named Isabel who seduces him into collaboration and a cynical rightist colonel who speaks in annoying riddles. The combined influence of these two extremists lands Tomas a job in a garage that's been repurposed as a torture chamber (the mundane turns to menace) which destroys his already meager excuse for a soul. So does "Hades, Argentina" sound dreary, downbeat and depressing? Damn straight it is, which is why it feels honest.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Aaron (Typographical Era)

    “I told you. What could have been is the underside of what was. What happened and what might have happened—flip sides of the same coin. I’ve been taking you through each of your tosses, as it were. Most you don’t really wish landed differently. But there’s at least one I know you’ve dreamed for ten years of throwing again . . .” That feeling you get when you read the last page of something and immediately want to dive into everything else the author has previously written only to discover what yo “I told you. What could have been is the underside of what was. What happened and what might have happened—flip sides of the same coin. I’ve been taking you through each of your tosses, as it were. Most you don’t really wish landed differently. But there’s at least one I know you’ve dreamed for ten years of throwing again . . .” That feeling you get when you read the last page of something and immediately want to dive into everything else the author has previously written only to discover what you just finished was his debut novel. I. WANT. MORE. This was a perfect debut, blending historical facts of the reality of life in Argentina in the mid-70s with fiction to create an all too human story focused on love, loss, and perhaps most importantly, regret. How much of what happens to us is truly within our control? If you could change things, would you? If you did, would it even make a difference? Although Hades, Argentina wraps up nicely, it does leave you with grappling with the larger, universal questions.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ray Cervantez

    Getting through the 1/3 of book was an act of will, the subject was difficult, the "Dirty War" of Argentina in the early 70's to 1983. The military anarchy of a campaign to have citizens disappear at will for suspected anti-governmental activity such as supporting unions, socialism, anything against the standard capitalistic structure of Argentina. This occurred with the support of U.S. government. From 10,000 to 30,000 are the death estimates. Tomas, he worked as a spy for the anti-governmental Getting through the 1/3 of book was an act of will, the subject was difficult, the "Dirty War" of Argentina in the early 70's to 1983. The military anarchy of a campaign to have citizens disappear at will for suspected anti-governmental activity such as supporting unions, socialism, anything against the standard capitalistic structure of Argentina. This occurred with the support of U.S. government. From 10,000 to 30,000 are the death estimates. Tomas, he worked as a spy for the anti-governmental force Monteneros, experiences first hand the repressive torture by the military, as helps the processing of the militants through military torture. In the same breath, he reports to the Monteneros the military strategies to repress more people. This book is a fictional account, it is a good book, when Tomas gets personal about his romantic relatioship, mother-son relationship...his love and attachment to them, you get to vitally know him. His vulnerability reeks of pain, yet hope.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Hades, Argentina, is the story of Tomas, who returns to Argentina a decade after escaping from the daily terror of life after the military coup. It's a very confusing read at times, as the ghost of the Colonel, his mentor and nemesis, leads him back through the choices and actions and beliefs that led him to where he is today. Confusing, perhaps, but haunting. Were his choices the correct ones? And what about the cost of his choices - not only to his own soul, but to the lives of others? Each re Hades, Argentina, is the story of Tomas, who returns to Argentina a decade after escaping from the daily terror of life after the military coup. It's a very confusing read at times, as the ghost of the Colonel, his mentor and nemesis, leads him back through the choices and actions and beliefs that led him to where he is today. Confusing, perhaps, but haunting. Were his choices the correct ones? And what about the cost of his choices - not only to his own soul, but to the lives of others? Each revelation shines a light on what really happened. This novel presents a vivid picture of life under the regime, the fate of those who fought back or disagreed in any way, and the impossible choices many were forced to make. Many thanks to NetGalley and Penguin/Riverhead for the e-arc. Excellent, but heartbreaking and horrifying. 4.5 stars.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ingmar

    A very confident debut about a very horrible chapter of South American history, this takes part in Buenos Aires during the USA-sponsored junta terror 1976-83. Loedel actually had a half-sister who was kidnapped, tortured and killed then at the age of 22, before he himself was born, and has spent many years researching the events around her disappearance and trying to find closure for himself and family around her murder. The book consists mainly of flashbacks from the main narrator Thomas Orilla, A very confident debut about a very horrible chapter of South American history, this takes part in Buenos Aires during the USA-sponsored junta terror 1976-83. Loedel actually had a half-sister who was kidnapped, tortured and killed then at the age of 22, before he himself was born, and has spent many years researching the events around her disappearance and trying to find closure for himself and family around her murder. The book consists mainly of flashbacks from the main narrator Thomas Orilla, who as a US physician, returns to Buenos Aires and via memories and apparitions relives much of the terror and torture chambers he experienced as a medical student, caught between the opposition and the torturers. Loedel handles the inhumane subject matter and complex dreamlike dramaturgy as though he's written novels for decades.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Susan Goldstein

    This is a very different kind of story. In the tradition of South American literature, the author blends reality with magical realism, so we are given to believe that the protagonist can return to Argentina 10 years later, cross into Hades, and consider re-living parts of his life, making different choices, in order to save this woman he loves. The writing is beautiful! The plot is realistic at times in exploring the regimes of South America in the 70s/80s, the guerrilla warfare, the torture and This is a very different kind of story. In the tradition of South American literature, the author blends reality with magical realism, so we are given to believe that the protagonist can return to Argentina 10 years later, cross into Hades, and consider re-living parts of his life, making different choices, in order to save this woman he loves. The writing is beautiful! The plot is realistic at times in exploring the regimes of South America in the 70s/80s, the guerrilla warfare, the torture and violence. This is not an easy book to read. However, there is a good story here that gives the reader something to think about: if you could go back in time and make different choices, how would that impact others, not just yourself?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rachel S

    After 10 years in hiding in New York City as one of Argentina's many "disappeared," Thomàs returns home to visit a dying family friend. Thomàs is a frustrating and unsympathetic main character: he has no agency or opinions. He does whatever his crush Isabel asks of him, then returns to his dorms and waits for a phone call so someone else can tell him what to do next. He follows orders like a jellyfish follows the current; brainless and spineless. And that's the point. Thomàs has no agenda but hi After 10 years in hiding in New York City as one of Argentina's many "disappeared," Thomàs returns home to visit a dying family friend. Thomàs is a frustrating and unsympathetic main character: he has no agency or opinions. He does whatever his crush Isabel asks of him, then returns to his dorms and waits for a phone call so someone else can tell him what to do next. He follows orders like a jellyfish follows the current; brainless and spineless. And that's the point. Thomàs has no agenda but his actions have consequences regardless. What follows is a Dantean reminiscence of the past, and the search for the path forward.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mia Hall

    There is a lot to love about this book...gripping plot, detailed historical accounting, evocative writing. The heart of the novel seems to be the thin line between ending up on the right or wrong side of history, if indeed history can be divided as such. However, the fantasy/time travel/ghost story aspect of the novel wasn’t totally successful for me. It felt largely forced and convoluted; at times confusing for the reader but mostly just unnecessary. The cryptic dialogue between ghosts and the There is a lot to love about this book...gripping plot, detailed historical accounting, evocative writing. The heart of the novel seems to be the thin line between ending up on the right or wrong side of history, if indeed history can be divided as such. However, the fantasy/time travel/ghost story aspect of the novel wasn’t totally successful for me. It felt largely forced and convoluted; at times confusing for the reader but mostly just unnecessary. The cryptic dialogue between ghosts and the main character felt overwritten. The story itself was so gripping and prescient that the other stuff felt gimmicky.

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