Magazine article The Spectator

Believe It or Not

Magazine article The Spectator

Believe It or Not

Article excerpt

Believe it or not

Miranda France


by Andrew Graham-Yooll

Shoestring, L7.99, pp. 225

Latin American writers seem to prefer describing real events and people in novels, perhaps because a paucity of trustworthy documentation scares them off non-fiction and biography. The upshot is a frustrating shortage of good history books on that continent. For instance, Tomas Eloy Martinez's 'novel' Santa Evita blithely combines startling true revelations about Eva Peron with startling fake ones. It could be a case of raspberries aimed at the po-faced northern hemisphere: some Latin Americans think we get too hung up on truth.

Goodbye, Buenos Aires is about Andrew Graham-Yooll's father, Douglas, and in his own words it's 'a novel which claims to be the truth, sometimes'. Sometimes? Well, how often, exactly? It's not altogether a frivolous question because, while the book does not hang well enough together to make a memorable novel, it could be an interesting document about Argentina in the first half of this century.

Presumably most of it is true, otherwise Graham-Yooll might just as well have rustled up a fictional protagonist instead of using his dad. But we can never know for sure if Onassis - who arrived in Argentina impoverished at 27 and got rich there -- really advised Douglas to 'find yourself a ship and make it your fortune'. Or if Evita explained her world-view to him in the back of her chauffeur-driven car. Or, indeed, if he had quite so many exciting and exhausting sexual encounters. I think the sex is most likely embellished because not many fathers would regale their sons with the sort of squelchy details published here - in which case Douglas's escapades with the lady from the Foreign Office could be libellous, if she is still alive (or real, for that matter).

The novel starts in 1928 when Douglas arrives in Buenos Aires from Scotland on the Royal Mail ship Highland Rover. …

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