Ariana Harwicz enters an abuser’s mind to expose social ruin

With the books that make up the so-called Passion Trilogy, the literature of Argentinian Ariana Harwicz was characterized by a visceral style and by the approach of controversial themes within the family organism. “Die, Love” is about a woman plagued by postpartum depression and murderous thoughts about her baby; “The Mentally Weak” focuses on the frantic relationship between mother and daughter; and “Precoce” delves into an incestuous relationship between a teenager and his mother.

“Degenerado”, the author’s most recent novel, breaks with this pattern, bringing to the fore an element relegated to commentary in previous works: the sociopolitical spectrum. This does not, however, result in a relaxation of the choice of the central conflict. Quite the opposite.

Harwicz probes the mind of an elderly man who rapes and kills a girl “who had barely begun to walk” and devises explanations to legitimize/mitigate his act. Its board of comparison (or ruler of conviction) is an amoral, corrupt, violent and degrading gregarious state. In the case of history, a xenophobic Europe, shaped by wars and genocides, purging totalitarian and anti-Semitic ideals to this day, with an institutional model of justice forged by dehumanization and the suffocation of rights. A kind of quid pro quo, as unthinkable and unhealthy as this possibility may be. Evil contrasted with another evil in order to scrutinize despites, measure justifications to assuage guilt.

Yes, this is a provocative premise. But not a rhetoric, which reverberates within the imaginary environment. There is a strategy of using the text to remove the passive condition of reading, kidnapping the reader into the pit of this sordid reality and encouraging him to reflect and position himself in the face of such questions, in the face of the abuser’s criteria. It bothers, turns the stomach at times, but operates irresistibly. And this is largely due to the narrative procedure, which drags everything into a tense, labyrinthine flow of consciousness, crossing interior monologue and assault of nameless voices, mixing the rawness of the reporting of facts and a kind of wild poetry.

As pretentious as it may sound, Harwicz offers a disconcerting experience, an incursion into the dark rooms of a pedophile who was considered an exemplary citizen, above all suspicion by the community that resided in the French countryside, and who gradually secretes vile reasoning, the example of “a relationship between an adult man and a little girl is possible”, and details of what he committed with cold naturalness. It is part of his attempt at absolution to dig into the past and bring to light episodes of a childhood marked by the fights between his parents and their traumatic echoes, as well as mentioning the limitations of old age, of the broken body. Such allegations, however, hide tricks that will be unmasked throughout the character’s passage through the penitentiary system and in court testimony. The disoriented and shifting testimony in time is made up of fragments that fit together to draw an insidious personality that, while claiming innocence, parades disturbing considerations, creating a game of sensory manipulation in which, the more one enters, the more one perceives. a trace of something pleasurable and liberating.

That is why society is its shield, its counterpart. And therein lies the great insight of the book: showing a monster, and never a liar. Yes, your crime is heinous. Yes, your defense points are completely skewed. Even so, all of her behaviorist arguments are based on the political and social current, even seeming to be extracted, with due proportions, from the author’s own experience, an Argentine living in French territory. At one point, the character mocks the hypocrisy of “aggravated democracy, this fraud”, where “everyone is equal in a system that exalts difference”, citing “the dancing Latin monkeys with tits and butts”. If human psychology is shaped by the behavioral context of a group, being a monster in an environment of monstrosity is not being an outcast, but an equal.

Harwicz walks this dangerous path without concessions or easy solutions, as if carrying a mirror that looks at the reader at each shocking passage or controversial passage, forcing him to reputed his values, his moral conceptions, his social conduct. The central conflict is only a device for broader discussions, which transcend the paginated limits and knock on the door of reality in news, popular manifestations, perhaps in the personal experience of those who are reading this review. The great merit of “Degenerate” is that it will be an ever-living book, echoing the heartbeats of a world in which such a scandalous act becomes commonplace, in which the absurd dissolves in the plausibility of terror. “Courage and truth are extremely rare,” notes the narrator. And distressing too.


Book: Degenerate
Author: Ariana Harwicz
Publishing company: instant
Pages: 128 pages
Evaluation: 4.5/5

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About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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