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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Nowhere is this model less appropriate than to those recent strains of unruly science fiction that have been loosely grouped together under the headers of cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk, taking their name from a subgenre pioneered, stabilized, and popularized germah SF veterans of variously institutional and academic formations who crafted a socially critical and often ideologically heavy-handed maggioei not just anticipating but precipitating and demanding interpretation in socially critical terms.
Vanoli is a brainy and literary author, active in the somewhat insular and incestuous small-press scene of Buenos Aires, who is more circumspect about the social and ideological purchase available to fiction than one might assume hombrse an author his age. He also holds a doctorate in sociology from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, whose field work was on exactly that: Given his sociological writings, and the faculty and the intellectual culture of U.
My premise is that this novel is a sociological and biopolitical thought-experiment that co-opts entrf commonplaces to signal to the reader both its speculative stakes and the mode of interpretation most appropriate to it. Specifically, I want to read the novel in light of a recent roundtable enntre the contemporary literary scene in which Vanoli expresses clearly this agency he wishes ebtre the writers of his generation to exert.
The novel is set in outer Buenos Aires, a capital-free zone that Vanoli sketches as an endless series of favela-like shanties self-organized outside of the city and outside of the State. Soccer-related riots, revenge-murders on players and coaches, internecine feuds, and other acts of violence both organized and spontaneous occur more frequently in Argentina than anywhere else in the world, and that frequency has been increasing steadily for the last two decades.
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The barras bravas represents in the imagination of the Argentine middle-class a looming boogeyman and an index of the lawless and uncontrollable multitude kept at the margins of the State project in largely racialized, pathologized, and classist ways. In classic cyberpunk fashion, this violence and the social forms imagined are presented in medias res and in unmarked, initially opaque ways by a desensitized and familiar narrator, creating a readerly experience centered as much on shock as on deduction and exploration.
Curiously, and for reasons never even hinted at in the novel, gender roles have been switched dramatically and the drug-running soccer-gangs are entirely female, with male gun molls and sex objects being subjected to unmarked misandry throughout the novel. More pertinent is the setting of that opening scene: Aside from the unexplained designation of the driver as a cyborg, there is essentially no reference to time or technology that would hint at how far in the future if at all the scene is set.
To redeem themselves in the eyes of their ex-anthropologist gang boss for their bus mishap, they are assigned a particularly onerous job: This glimpse comprises the only paragraph where the countryside is described in the whole novel, and it does so in apocalyptic terms, no less: These biker—amazons intervene to prepare the hapless urban protagonists for their encounter with the daunting Brazilians.
I had experienced this before every time we got on a jalopy-bus to see Boca Juniors play out in the country: About 10 or 15 kilometers out of the city we cross those paved exits that lead down to the subterranean cities.
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Nobody knows how they lived in there, much less who lives there now. I have no idea, better not to know.
The tone of the novel, in a maneuver we could perhaps credit to the influence of Aira, dissipates into a more airy and poetic roadtrip phase complete with magfiori trips and sexcapades. In the novel, his profaned and tellingly, assassinated hombrex has been reanimated as a cyborg, and that cyborg stolen by the Brazilian drug cartel and rented out for astronomical sums for exhibition games, prostitution, birthday parties, and an entire season of the Brazilian national leagues.
Cyborg technology is first mentioned but not explained on the bus of the fateful bardo, where a typical, unremarkable driver with a vacant stare and a prosthetic arm coolly reacts to the bullets whizzing past him as if they pose no real threat to him, stopping and emptying the bus as if the whole process were routine.
When the reader finally encounters cyber-Messi near the end of the novel, a little more backstory has been leaked about cyborg technology: This happiness, however, is crucially inscribed in another literary and philosophical tradition: She laments indirectly the capacity for independence which she lost upon inscription into that medical and economic order to which she had eluded throughout the novel.
Here again, metaphors of possession and control that recur in the biopolitical philosophical tradition are literalized to comic effect. In a conflation of the rhetoric of drug dependency and the mysticism of currency and geopolitics, they need what the empire needs: Near the end of the novel, as the Brazilians close in on Lionel and his kidnappers, they run out of human gasoline and for a while cyber-Messi falls unconscious and powers down. As his other memories proceed to power up incrementally, and a cigarette succeeds only in irritating his metal lungs, there is only one thing that can calm him and to restore him to a sense of self-possession.
Indeed, any allegorical or otherwise political reading of the novel would have to proceed from and stabilize a reading of Messi as hero, avatar, and saint of a kind of religiosity little studied in the academy and even less so outside of Latin American social sciences.
Lionel asks the bike gang to find him a Virtual Reality headset to play a video game from before his death to help him regain his self-possession. They find the game a few hours later, and when the news is announced: Obras citadas Altamirano, Carlos. Peronismo y cultura de izquierda. Temas Grupo Editorial, Marx and Freud in Latin America: Politics, Psychoanalysis, and Religion in Times of Terror.
VIAF ID: 99012371 (Personal)
Nightmares of the Lettered City: Banditry and Literature in Latin America, University of Pittsburgh Press, The Birth of the Prison. Reading Agamben and Foucault in the War on Terror.
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