Juan José Delaney

Escritor argentino contemporáneo

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Brilliant short stories

Papeles del desierto, by Juan José Delaney. Ediciones El Gato Negro, Buenos Aires.

A practitioner of the modern short story in the tradition so brilliantly inaugurated by Edgar Allan Poe, Juan José Delaney adds to it a further dimension in his concern for man’s –and woman’s- condition in this world. Their dreams, their inner loneliness, the passing of time and death itself are seen under a new light allowed by the possibilities of the fantastic narrative, deftly handled by the author.

Thus in the story entitled “El aviso”, for instance, a man wants to measure the extent of affection he evoked among his fellow-beings by putting an ad announcing his own death; in “El sueño del bachiller” the protagonist returns to his high school building after many years, only to find his former teachers being punished for the lies or misconceptions instilled in their young students; in one of the most moving stories, “Fijman”, the poet of that name, confined in an asylum, leaves briefly in order to attend a lecture about his own work by one of his exegetes –and teaches us a lesson on the gap between the substance of poetry itself, and the rambling interpretations of critics. Loneliness and lack of communication in contemporary man are revealingly illustrated in such stories as “Ars communicandi”, “Pianola” and the one lending its title to the book, “Papeles del desierto”. And a concern for the feminine condition –woman as sinner or as a victim of man?- is clearly visible in “La condenada” and most particularly in a story with truly feminist undertones, “Las mujeres del sur”.

Special mention should be made of a satire with comic characteristics, “Examen de la obra de Carlos Argentino Daneri”, where the imaginary writer under that name, achieving eternity in Borges’ “El Aleph” as a pompous figure of fun, is again revived and explored in all its ludicrous possibilities with a surprising twist at the end.

As could only be expected from the editor of El Gato Negro mystery magazine, Juan José Delaney introduces elements of the fantastic and the thriller to good effects. In “Audacias de la cinematografía”, he explores the possibilities of life on the screen actually invading real life, a subject to which he gives a new twist in a thrilling story close to perfection, ironically titled “La vida real”. And in “Titanic” he recalls the tragic sinking of the big ocean liner to investigate the life and work of Jacques Frutelle, an American Detective story writer counting among its victims.

With obvious influences of the great Anglo-Saxon masters of the short story, Delaney also acknowledges, among local influences, those of Jorge Luis Borges and Marco Denevi, and this book proves him a brilliant disciple, bringing a new originality to a time-honoured genre.

Inés Pardal

(Buenos Aires Herald, February 2, 1992)


 

Irish-American memories from BA

by

Inés Pardal

For the Herald

 Moira Sullivan, by Juan José Delaney. Published by Corregidor, Buenos Aires.

       From an asylum for old people in Buenos Aires, an Irish-American woman, Moira Sullivan, reminisces her past life. Silence is a key element enshrouding her memories: the silent movies in which she performed as a child actress in the US, the scripts she later wrote for them are part of it. Silence, also, is part of her linguistic isolation: originally surmounted by her first love for a yong German musician in New York (music first drawing them together over the language barrier), then Spanish rises as a new barrier when Moira Sullivan arrives in Argentina married to an Irish-American businessman. Subtly told, this moving first novel by Juan José Delaney (the author of four previous volumes of short stories) gives ample evidence of the author’s insight to enter a woman’s soul.

The novel also brings memories of two periods and two countries (perhaps one should say three, the US with Ireland  in the background, and Argentina). Irish-descended Moira, brought up by nuns harking on sin an hell, can only rid herself of her fears when falling in love with Konrad, the foreign musician, an agnostic “outsider”. (There seems to be in the novel a loving but at times critical approach to “Irishness”, in which religion appears to be identified with ethnic identity). The period of silent movies in the US is evoked with accuracy, with (mostly) real names mixed with imaginary characters. Moira’s first script for a feature film, too, seems telling: this is a Western in which, as against Hollywood’s often racist bias, a native American (he, too, forever an outsider to the core of “Western” civilization) plays a generous role.

Moira’s memories from Argentina are initially more blurred by her lack of Spanish. But again small touches (for readers to grasp) are evidence of both a loving and critical view of things. Moira wonders about the excessive role the military play in this country (something unheard of in her previous US life, with Uriburu’s coup imminent here at the time, anticipating a long string of them which marred Argentine life for some fifty years). There is also some hint of criticism at the excessive role of the Church in lay matters (as if the clergy were afraid of losing their influence in a country with a Spanish-Italian majority that, unlike the Irish, do not need of religion to assert their identity).

There are, finally, some ironical notes about discrimination: while the Irish like to think of themselves as being fully integrated in Argentine life, their clubs, pubs and schools seem to protect them as a bulwark against outsiders. Also, marriages across ethnic barriers were less common in Moira’s time, even among Catholics from different European backgrounds. So within the main plot, author Juan José Delaney introduces a moving touch with the story of a gaucho-like character called Abraham Mullins (the son of a Jewish mother and Irish father), rising new hopes for a country (and a continent) where ancestral racial barriers inherited from the Old World need not and should not remain as part of our heritage.

(Buenos Aires Herald, April 9, 2000)


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  Read 
The Real Life      Short Stories       Essay
Papeles del desierto    Tréboles del Sur (definite edition)       Moira Sullivan     Marco Denevi
 Memoria de Theophilus Flynn 



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