Online Edition: Spring 1999

Little Red Riding Hood in the Red Light District

Manilo Argueta
translated by Edward Waters Hood

Curbstone Press ($14.95)

by Susan Swartwout

The logistics of conducting a wartime love affair are seldom more orchestratable or romantic than "Your place, or mine?" Yet in this innovative, political novel, Manlio Argueta creates the poignancy and desperation of two lovers caught in El Salvador's deadly civil strife. In this world, much of their relationship must resign itself to the destructive hell of memory, like "the fly's egg in the fruit so that the larvae will be able to eat it up from the inside out."

Argueta was a member of El Salvador's most acclaimed group of writers, La Generacion Comprometida, from 1950 to 1956. His novels (including the widely-praised One Day of Life, which addresses social conditions in El Salvador through one day in the life of a middle-aged peasant woman) have enjoyed international success. Not surprisingly, however, Argueta is known in his own country primarily as a poet: this novel uses figurative language as beautifully as a poem would, despite the novel's darkest events that brand themselves on our collective memory--events as unforgettable as Salvador's desaparecidos, those who have disappeared.

The dialogue between dreams and desires, and parallels to the Red Riding Hood fairy tale, intertwine throughout the novel, accenting effect over chronology. As with any recursive writing, a chronology-junkie will flounder through this dense and intense book. Yet, throughout the novel's flow the reader is enveloped in the thoughts, lifetime, and losses of two war-crossed lovers. The experience is haunting.

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Spring 1999 Table of Contents