Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: Operation Massacre by Rodolfo Walsh

Title: Operation Massacre
Author: Rodolfo Walsh
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Seven Stories Press
Publish Date: 1957
Source: Borrowed

What's the Story?:

From "1956. Argentina has just lost its charismatic president Juán Perón in a military coup, and terror reigns across the land. June 1956: eighteen people are reported dead in a failed Peronist uprising. December 1956: sometime journalist, crime fiction writer, studiedly unpoliticized chess aficionado Rodolfo Walsh learns by chance that one of the executed civilians from a separate, secret execution in June, is alive. He hears that there may be more than one survivor and believes this unbelievable story on the spot. And right there, the monumental classic Operation Massacre is born.

Walsh made it his mission to find not only the survivors but widows, orphans, political refugees, fugitives, alleged informers, and anonymous heroes, in order to determine what happened that night, sending him on a journey that took over the rest of his life.

Originally published in 1957, Operation Massacre thoroughly and breathlessly recounts the night of the execution and its fallout."

My Two Cents: 

"Operation Massacre" takes place during a very dark time in Argentina's history. It is the 1950s and the political establishment has been upended. Charismatic President Juan Peron lost the presidency during a coup. The Peronistas try to stage an uprising, which fails, and journalist, Rodolfo Walsh is at the center of it trying to find out what happened. Walsh uses his skills as a journalist in order to shed some light on what happened during and after the uprising and how it affected the entire country. This is an unflinching true-life account of a country in chaos.

One of my majors in college was International Studies with a focus in Latin America. I am still endlessly fascinated about this area of the world and I am sort of surprised that I didn't come across this book earlier in my studies. I was very happy to be able to borrow it from a friend. It was really interesting to read about this event from a more on-the-ground approach than you would get from a standard history book. Walsh is a very driven individual and really wants to shed light on what happened. He draws on a lot of interviews and first hand accounts of people who were there and witnessed both the uprising and the fallout. I really liked that he focused so heavily on the accounts of people who were actually there and who actually witnessed

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" in the way that it was told. It is a gripping story that pulled me in right from the beginning. I love learning history through books like this one as they get you right into the heart of the issue.

The history behind how this book was published is fascinating as well. This was originally published as magazine articles as the magazine was the only one brave enough to publish these stories (this would have been an incredibly controversial work during that time period). It's really fantastic that Walsh's work got published at all as the magazine editor could have just as easily said no for his own protection!

If you're interested in history and especially if you are interested in politics or South America, this is most definitely a worthwhile read!


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