Great Translations: Terror in Argentina

Jim Fonseca
5 min readSep 22, 2022
Terror on four wheels: a 1970’s Ford Falcon used by police in Argentina. Photo from imcdb.org

A Review of the novel 77 by Guillermo Saccomanno

The Setting: There’s a lot going on in this Argentinian novel set in Buenos Aires in 1977, during the days of the iron-fisted military dictatorship that terrorized its own people. Thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured and ‘disappeared.’ The story is told in flashbacks by a gay man who’s in his 80’s now and who had been in his fifties when these events occurred.

(Spoilers follow)

The Story: Our main character is a gay high-school literature teacher. He tries to keep a low profile as, one-by-one, his friends and students disappear. It’s risky to go out evenings, but he picks up men in bars and bathhouses. Several times he and a companion are beaten up by police — he’s even hospitalized once. Often the cops take their money.

Another time he realizes that one of the cops beating them is gay too and they begin an affair — a dangerous situation for both individuals. With his connection to this policeman, parents of the missing start coming to the main character to find out where their loved ones are and if they are still alive. So the main character walks a fine line between asking his policeman friend questions and asking too many questions; and his policeman lover walks the fine line of giving some answers and giving…

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Jim Fonseca

Geography professor (retired) writes The One Minute Geographer featuring This Fragile Earth. Top writer in Transportation and, in past months, Travel.