Friendship, Death and Sports
Review by Michael Sanchez
Papers in the Wind
Eduardo Sacheri, trans. Mara Fay LethemOther Press
Alejandro Raguzzi—nicknamed Mono—dies in the first chapter of Papers in the Wind. He dies so quickly that he's only shown in flashbacks. In the aftermath of Mono's death, his group of friends—suddenly a trio—is left to carry on despite their incredible differences.
Eduardo Sacheri uses the course of Papers in the Wind to build three-dimensional characters who seem, at first, to be thinly veiled stereotypes. Mauricio is a lawyer, ruthless in his ambition to build a better life. Ruso is the fool, failing in one business endeavor after another, always distracted by video games and movies. Fernando is Mono's brother, now living in the shadow of his dead sibling even more than when Mono was alive. Tying these three friends together are Mono's daughter, Guadalupe, her mother, Lourdes, and a soccer player, Mario Pittilanga, whose transfer Mono purchased before his untimely death. When Mono bought the transfer, Pittilanga seemed like a kid on the way up—a surefire investment. And Mono’s daughter could really use the money.
The problem? Pittilanga is no longer a sure thing. Sacheri possesses a deft authorial touch, using soccer to explore the changes we all go through in life. As Ruse convinces Pittilanga to switch positions to better his chances of making it to the next level, Fernando devotes himself to taping Pittilanga's matches. Meanwhile, Mauricio sits out almost the entire affair, dividing the previous quartet from a trio to a duo. The strain of losing their friend while trying to salvage his business——while running their own lives—proves enormous.
Courtesy of Other Press
The novel switches from advancing the story of the group's work promoting Pittilanga to flashbacks showing how the now-broken quartet dealt with Mono's illness. The metaphors are abundant when it comes to the young men's love for their childhood team Independiente. The team won abundantly when the friends were young but has now fallen from its previous glory. Especially poignant is Mono, dying, wondering with his friends if he inadvertently cursed his beloved team by asking for too much, in a manner typical of diehard sports fans.
The ending, almost too tidy, presents a realistic picture of a young man who knows he's dying, reconciling his feelings about life and death, God and the things he's leaving behind. Mauricio, Ruso and Fernando, left reeling by Mono's absence, briefly fall apart—both individually and as a group—before seizing upon the opportunity Mono left for them. Their quartet, once shattered to a couple, is completely healed, if in a trite fashion, at the end of the novel. The ending, though formulaic, is still enjoyable. Papers in the Wind is a breezy summer read and a nice complement to World Cup viewing.
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