Will it help to agree with the enemy to achieve some kind of peace? Change something so that nothing changes? That’s what the characters in “The Fire and the Vespers”, Beatriz Guido’s novel, which is published again by Sudamericana. Forks a very special reissue: for years, Guido was forgotten, despite having been an unstoppable creator of bestsellers during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The torpor seems to be over when they are meeting 100 years of his birth and several artists and intellectuals (some of them were his friends in life) promote reissues and tributes in order to rescue his work from a lethargy that lasted decades.
Fiction and politics
“The fire and the eve”, published in 1964, is probably Guido’s most controversial and successful text. It tells the story of the Pradere, a family of rich landowners cornered by the expropriations of land and property carried out by the Peronist government. Alejandro Pradere, the father of the clan, believes that if he accepts a diplomatic position in Perón’s government, they will allow him to keep “Bagatelle”, the imposing family ranch, even if it means betraying his class. Meanwhile, he thinks about what to do with his life, in a house that has run out of servants (everyone went to the square on October 17). His son, José Luis, who secretly participates in anti-Peronist resistance groups, decides to hide Pablo Alcobendas, a young man with anarchist tendencies willing to give his life to fight Perón. Alcobendas will end up entangled in a passionate romance with Inés Pradere, José Luis’s sister. The melodrama is controlled by Antola Báez, the old and grotesque family servant who knows everyone’s secrets.
The novel culminates with the famous fire of the jockey club, in 1953, a place that was a symbol and scene of the social life of the local aristocracy, at the hands of Peronist militants. The act was in revenge for an attack suffered in Plaza de Mayo, in a union act, in April of that year, at the hands of an anti-Peronist group.
“The book had a great impact due to its strong ideology: Beatriz was absolutely anti-Peronist and the novel is a very strong criticism of Peronism. It caused quite a stir and was the biggest bestseller she had had up to that point,” says the journalist. Cristina Mucciauthor of “The forgotten ones” (South American) the book where he describes the lives of Guido and two other successful writers of his time: Silvina Bullrich and Marta Lynch. Three true literary phenomena that, until not long ago, few remembered.
Mucci attributes this rescue of the writer’s work to the fact that she was “a very good friend and many people loved her. Those people today insist on remembering her”. “But the forgetfulness is real: in these years in which the role of women grew so much, many authors were vindicated and Guido, Bullrich and Marta Lynch were not talked about at all. The three of them reflected a moment in the country, but I think that for ideological reasons, more than literary ones, this oblivion occurred”, says the journalist, who along with Oscar Barney Finn, Cristina Piña and Héctor Olivera is part of the group of intellectuals who work today to rescue the author.
It also highlights that the success of “El incendio y las vespers” is due, in addition to its criticism of Peronism, to how Guido describes the world of the Argentine upper class, a world that was not his. She came from a middle-class home, where she had an important intellectual formation. The only one who had a truly aristocratic origin was Bullrich. “However, she criticized her saying that there were clichés in the novel, as if she were looking at what she did not know from the outside,” says the journalist.
And that was probably the mildest criticism. The most outstanding of the Peronist intelligentsia charged furiously against the book. John William Cooke described it as a “small, careful and falsely perverse bourgeois novel” and Arturo Jauretche dedicated a chapter of his 1966 book, “El medio pelo” to it, where he criticized customs, tastes and practices of the Argentine middle class that he hated. to Peron. For him, Guido was just “a by-product of literacy” and described the novel as “antipopular” and “disconnected from the real country.” “May Jauretche survive a long time, so they continue to sell my books,” Guido replied ironically “Confirmed” magazine. “I am eternally grateful for the promotion. For every book of his that is sold, three of mine are sold…”, she added sharply on that occasion.
Today that the novel is in circulation again, political correctness may be scandalized by how the Praderes fear that “a few blacks will bury the city” and turn the Bagatelle ranch into “some park for the town to fill with rubbish on Sundays.” .
It is true that the stigma of the “anti-popular” novel contributed to the oblivion of Beatriz Guido’s work, but for Cristina Mucci, cancellation cannot be the way. “It is a book that marked an era, it was a stir, I remember it because I lived it. It cannot be ignored. You can discuss it, but you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist,” the journalist says.
Beatriz Guido was born on December 13, 1922 in Rosario. Her mother was Berta Eirin, a young Uruguayan actress, and her father, Ángel Guido, a prestigious architect and one of the authors of the famous Monument to the flag.
Since she was a girl, she grew up in a very cultured family environment and accompanied her father on many of his professional trips. She had a first marriage with the banker Julio Gottheil, but her great love was the film director Leopoldo torre nilssonwhom he met in 1951 at the home of Ernesto and Matilde Sábato.
“I fell in love that same day,” Beatriz would later recount. At first the relationship was clandestine because both were still married. But then they formed one of the most famous couples in the Argentine cultural world. They not only loved each other, they also shared their entire career. He brought a large part of Guido’s books to the movies, beginning with “La casa del ángel”, his first novel published in 1954, with which he won the Emecé Award. It was followed by others such as “Fin de fiesta” and “La caída”. She also participated in the scripts of all the “Babsy” films (that’s what they called Torre Nilsson privately).
The death of the director in 1978, at the age of 54, was terrible for her, who survived him for only 10 years and died in 1988 in Madrid.
The researcher Alejandra Laera and the writer Esther Cross point out the main themes of their novels: upper-class families with dark secrets; sexual scenes, disruptive for their time and suffocating and rarefied settings where the characters seem to be sunk, with no escape. These stories captivated the readers of her time almost as much as the personality of the author: Beatriz Guido was, all of her, a media character, who was called to give her opinion on any subject, who had no problem in disturbing with her statements. She inveterate mythomaniac, she used to modify and invent details of her life without qualms. “I am a liar who always tells the truth”, she affirmed about herself.
Several publishers plan to republish other of his famous texts, including Penguin Random House, Eudeba and Fondo de Cultura Económica. After long forgotten, his work reappears to find new readers, as incendiary as in the years when it shone the most.