Las personas no desaparecen.People do not disappear. (25)
This book contains several stories about terrible crimes committed in Argentina from 1828 to 1962. Why did I bought this book? The reason is quite simple. The other day, I was in another city and had to wait many hours to go back to my house (bank, shops, my office, from 1 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.: nothing to do) and there was no way I could survive to all that without a book. I was in a hurry and, sadly, I forgot the book I was already reading at home. So I stopped at a bookstore and started to look around and then bought this one by Ricardo Canaletti, a well-known Argentine journalist who specializes in criminology.
And here we are.
The writing is simple, very straight-forward. That is Canaletti's signature. He has the ability of explaining complicated things with the simplicity of the greatest speakers (in this particular case, "writers"). And you cannot expect many beautiful and evocative lines in this kind of book. But simplicity does not mean underestimation, by no means. The author wants to reach every reader; he is beyond any technicality that would make him look erudite. He does not need that. The stories do not need that. For they are intriguing, unsettling and addictive, to say the least. They surprised me. They entertained me. They frightened me. Because they are real. These people existed. Any Argentinian will recognize many names. Heroes, patriots, politicians, famous judges and lawyers, painters, housewives, socialites, etc. They conform the context where troubled men and women became tragically famous.
This book serves as another tool to analyze human behavior, obviously. It deals with matters that are absolutely timeless. We are always repeating ourselves. We cannot break the circle. What motivates people to mistreat and even kill other people are always the same things. We are privileged witnesses of the vertiginous advance of technology, and yet, we are always in the same place. Our obsessions, our problems, the things a troubled mind see... That does not change.
Money, jealousy, envy, abuse, a tragic childhood, a violent household. They killed for pleasure, for necessity, for survival. Many different causes, same rationalization: “I had to”. “I did not have a choice”.
And sure, the justice for the masses and the justice for important names. Ringing any bells? Yup. A whole bell tower. Justice back then, during the barbaric era of the whipping and death penalty. Justice now, with a still manipulable legal system that reflects that certain people have more rights than others.
History certainly shows us that we have changed and we haven't changed that much.
There were times where I found myself amazed at people's creativity. An innocent-looking hunchback perpetrated some of the most complex robberies of the 19th century. Why the police didn't catch him sooner? It is kind of difficult to forget the physiognomy of a hunchback. But he was so ugly and looked “so stupid” that they thought he could have never planned robberies like that.
And other times, I was simply disgusted. The vileness of people that made the most savage animal look humane. The creation of disturbing universes out of petty, little things. The ability to hide their true nature and present themselves as honest people, making it impossible for society to believe they were really criminals. “Falsely honest men”, as Mittermaier said. And the absence of regret.
Some things cannot be fixed. A person that does not show any remorse seems to be no longer made of flesh and bones. Even if I choose to hold on to hope and think of forgiveness, regret and redemption, since we cannot be inside other people's minds. We cannot know exactly what the other person is feeling.
Is it in our genes? Is it in the air?
Hope. And some things cannot be fixed.
This review started with a quote I chose from Chapter 1. “People do not disappear”. It is a devastating sentence that leaves no doubt. A simple concept that conveys a powerful message. People do not vanish off the face of the Earth. That resonates deeply in the heart of many Argentines. During the time the dictatorship ruled this country, the de facto government used to say that the missing people were not dead. Like twisted Schrödingers, they did not know whether those human beings were dead or alive. They just disappeared.
No están. Son desaparecidos.
No. People do not disappear.