11 November 2013

Murderers Proven Guilty, But Set Free

From "Living Dead Man" by Michael Wood, a review of Rodolfo Walsh's Operation Massacre  in The London Review of Books.
Operation Massacre, first published in 1957, with reprints in 1964 and 1969 (a movie was made from the book in 1972), is a classic of Latin American literature and not coincidentally the story of a failed love, a once conceivable love become inconceivable. Walsh wrote other works of investigative journalism – The Satanowsky Case (1958), Who Killed Rosendo? (1969) – and in a 1964 epilogue to Operation Massacre bundled them all bleakly together. ‘The outcome was the same: the dead still dead; the murderers, proven guilty, but set free.’

You can understand how I may have lost some faith – faith in justice, in compensation, in democracy, in all those words, and finally, in what was once, but is no longer, my trade.

I am rereading the story you all have read … I get annoyed thinking about how much better it would be if I wrote it now.

Would I write it now?

In 1977 Walsh published an open letter to the military junta in power, accusing its members of arriving ‘at a form of absolute, metaphysical torture that is unbounded by time’, and ending, after detailed indictments under many headings, with the words: ‘These are the thoughts I wanted to pass on to the members of this Junta on the first anniversary of your ill-fated government, with no hope of being heard, with the certainty of being persecuted, but faithful to the commitment I made a long time ago to bear witness during difficult times.’ He was not wrong, either about the persecution or his fidelity. The next day he was shot on the street and carried away. His body has never been found.

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