Readers may be grabbed by the famous woman on the book cover, but Gamerro’s evocation of Eva Perón is more than matched by his novel’s wonderful protagonist. Ernesto Maronné dreams of climbing the greasy pole to become Argentina’s most influential executive and has a whole library of self-help tomes to help him. Others might disagree with the rules of conduct such books espouse, nay-sayers may suggest that some skills cannot be learned through theory. Readers must cast aside such aspersions though as, armed with the ‘Don Quixote: The Executive Errant’, a management guide to rival the classic ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People‘, Maronné knows that he can rise above his rivals and lead his company, possibly his whole country, to dominance.
There is so much to love in ‘The Adventures of the Busts of Eva Perón’ that it’s really hard to know where to start. Let’s begin with the title, which refers to Maronné’s heroic and ultimately demented quest. To save the life of the company CEO, the aspiring executive (currently head of procurement) is sent off to source ninety-two busts of the controversial First Lady. According to the Peronist rebels holding CEO hostage, his life will be spared if a bust is placed in every office in the company.
Armed with dedication to the CEO, the implied promise of a promotion and a planned chapter for his future biography (working title: ‘Maronné by Maronné’), this modern day Executive Errant is more than ready to apply the principles of Quixotic fiction to life in 1970s Argentina. Fortunately, he has even more tools at his disposal than his literary predecessor; imagine what Quixote could have achieved if he’d thought of applying De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to conflict resolution! In truth though, you feel that Maronné has a much harder task than any attempted by knight in rusty armour. As society collapses around him, the mythical Evita starts popping up in the most unexpected places. Madonna, whore, commodity and bargaining tool – at one moment she is literally the landscape as well; overall, as a supreme presence, she makes the key scene in’Being John Malkovich’ seem positively restrained.
Published by the wonderful & Other Stories, and brilliantly translated by Ian Barnett, ‘The Adventures of The Busts of Eva Perón’ is an absolute must read. It is laugh-out-loud funny, but also sympathetic and surprisingly tender as it follows the hapless Maronné through his determined journey to become an inspirational modern executive. Forget Andrew Lloyd Webber or Tomás Eloy Martínez, for my money, this is the best Evita fiction out there and a reason to get very excited about contemporary Argentinian fiction. Now I’m off to try and get my hands on more of Gamerro’s translated works…