The Michigan Daily-Friday, May 5,1989-Page 12
The Ship of Fools
By Cristina Peri Rossi
Readers International $10.00/hardcover
"We didn't get rid of them when we had the chance, and one day we'll
have to let them go, so we'll have to take advantage of the time we have left
to drive them mad." So said Major A. Maciel, one-time director of the infa-
mous Uruguayan prison Libertad. Between 1973 and 1984, one in every
fifty Uruguayans-the world's highest per-capita detention rate - were held
in places like Libertad and subjected to the most sophisticated psychological
torture techniques ever developed.
Exiled Uruguayan Cristina Peri Rossi's The Ship of Fools , her first
novel to be translated into English, strives to confront this haunting legacy,
to both fathom its meaning and remember its terrors without being para-
lyzed by either. It also offers a biting and brilliant analysis of the machismo
which made military dictatorships so prevalent throughout the Southern
Cone in the 1970s. The protagonist, appropriately named Eck, is an exile,
desperately searching for order in a world rendered inchoate and fragmented
by his perpetual wanderings. Rendered incapable of fighting for the kind of
world he aspires to by the future-fearing stance of a contemplative observer,
Eck waits for that world to come to him.
And it does. For Eck's passivity accompanies an increasing sensitivity to
differences, an understanding of what it means to be alien. This attracts
others to Eck, forcing him to accept the change he once considered a "deep
betrayal," and reconcile his rage for order with the unpredictable.
As the novel progresses, Eck's relationships teach him that he cannot
treat people, as he initially treats Graciela -one of the many powerful
women he meets in the novel - as "an idea free from historical circum-
stances." Order cannot be bought by pigeon-holing people and places; to
rewrite history in an effort to control its progress would be to duplicate the
insidious and crippling methods of Uruguay's generals.
And it is this frozen vision of history which yields the most powerful
appearances of those generals. Having directly retold the story of their
crimes through the life of Eck's friend Vercingetorix, Peri Rossi then brings
them back again, albeit obliquely, weaving a perfectly ordered vision
through the narrative's medieval tapestry of the Christian creation.
Like most conjurers of nostalgia, the tapestry's vision has its attractive
side, recalling a world that apparently antedates the fragmentation and
anomie of the twentieth century. But the text gradually makes clear that
medievalism's advantages are strictly for the privileged. Letters and sketches
from school children in the text underscore the processes through which still
force women to suffer the ramifications of Eve's rebellion.
And the medieval period was no more tolerant of the alien than Eck's
world is. In one powerfully rendered chapter, Peri Rossi recaptures those
horrifying voyages in which people judged mad were consigned to decrepit
ships, pulled out to sea, and abandoned. Ships of fools, they were called -
much as prisons like Libertad are today. But the real fools, Peri Rossi sug-
gests, are those who steer the ship of the state into such insane - and in-
sanely cruel - decisions about others' lives. For, as Eck learns, "only in
imagination or dreams do the people we love occupy their proper places."
The real world is considerably more complicated. -Mike Fischer
BS, MS, PhD
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luesnik Skid Roper (left) in rockin' testimony
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g their sampling frenzy to the same stage.
The Raw and the Cooked
Great googly moogly! It's the Reverend Mojo Nixon and b
against the anti-Elvis Saturday, May 6th at Detroit's St. An
existential -looking Belgian techno-shockers Front 242 brir
Say Anything articulates
BY MARK SHAIMAN over her mother in a custody battle, And this reality is advanced by a
Say Anything is all John Cu- Mr. Court (Moonstruck's John Ma- great supporting cast. Lili Taylor,
sack. This basically well-written honey) has devoted his life to devel- the spunky Jo in Mystic Pizza, ap-
and well-directed movie may have oping his daughter into an over- pears here as Lloyd's heart-broken
nevertheless fallen into the ranks of achiever. but optimistic confidante Corey,
the average John Hughes-teen-age- At first everything goes smoothly composer of 65 songs about her ex-
romance-drivel without Cusack's between Lloyd and Diane. But when boyfriend. John Mahoney keeps the
sparkling performance. Instead, Say her father comes under an IRS audience guessing as Diane's father,
Anything reaches a level not often investigation, Diane's loyalty re- a loving yet'an over-bearing mentor.
attained by anything starring people turns to the homestead. A naturally It's hard to figure out how to react to
of this age, or any other. unhappy Lloyd finds himself strug- this paradoxical guy - but that is
Lloyd Dobler, our hero, has one gling between his pride and his love exactly Diane's problem.
goal in life - to be a kick-boxer. for her; he ultimately sides with the Unfortunately, the sparing ap-
That is, besides his hope of going latter, setting out to win Diane pearances afforded to John's Oscar-
out with Diane Court. Diane (tone again. nominated sister Joan Cusack -
Skye of River's Edge), as judged by Director/writer Cameron Crowe who plays Lloyd's own sister Con-
a friend of Lloyd's, is a brain "in the previously scripted Fast Times At stance - waste her considerable tal-
body of a game show hostess." Sure, Ridgemont High, the irreverent ents. But in the final account, the
they may seem an unlikely pair. But high-school comedy. But Say Any- sheer brilliance of Mr. Cusack's
when Lloyd calls Diane the first thing derives its comsiderable hu- performance simply makes it hard to
time to ask her to a party, stumbles mor from capturing reality rather say anything else besides: "see this
and stutters his way through the than lampooning it. film."
conversation while trying to appear
calm throughout, he charms not
only Diane but the whole audience. The Arts Outloo k
Diane quickly falls for Lloyd -
but she is really Daddy's girl. And
ever since Diane had chosen him FRIDAY, May S Sandra Bernhard does her comedic
A selection of prints and draw- spiel at the Power Center, 8 p.m.
A. ~'ings by the German expressionist SUNDAY, 7
Max Beckmann ("Begin the Be- Africanmusicfromamanbanned
guine") are on display in the Uni- in South Africa: Nigerian Sonny
HALTH versity's Museum's Lobby Gallery Okosun brings his calypso and reg-
PROFESSIONALS today through the 18th of June. gae rhythms to the BlindPig,6 p.m..
The Performance Network of MONDAY, 8
Ann Arbor, 408 W. Washington
The Air Force presentstheundersideoftheAmeri- Island-rhythm rockers Abraham
can make you an Nixon, along with 60s stylists the
attractiveoter- can Dream as viewedby Sam Shep-
outstanding com- ard's Obie Award-winning Curse of Bluefields, get presidential at The
pensation plus Beat, 215 N. Main; 10:30 p.m..
opportunities for the Starving Class today and Satur-
professional devel- day at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 6:30 p.m. TUESDAY, 9
opment. You can
have a challenging Guitarist Bill Banfield soloes at The Ann Arbor Civic Theater
practice andtimefto the Bird of Paradise, 207 S. Ashley. MainStage begins their production
spend with your fam-
ily while youserve SATURDAY, 6 of Mame at the Power Center, 8
youwconty.F DanHicksandhisAcousticWar- p.m., continuing through the 13th.
Force otters. Call riors move on the Blind Pig, 208S. WEDNESDAY, 10
USAF First, for shows at 8 and 11 p.m. Longtime local favorites Map of
HEALTH The massive This Country's the Woridc e
PROFESSIONS conquer the Blind Pi
313-561-7018 Rockin' gig hits the Pontiac Silver-
COLLECT dome at 2 p.m.; see ad on page 8. THU A 11
Flint, Michigan native and "Late The Beat plays host to Vegas Fist
Night with Letterman" mainstay and the Straw Dogs - 10:30 p.m.