"Well behaved women rarely make history"

Santa Evita! Not the song in the musical, but the novel about Evita by Tomas Eloy Martinez. This novel was written in 1996, to coincide with the release of the movie starring Madonna. Martinez, who passed away in 2010, was a journalist and professor at Iowa State University. While he was not a Peronist, his fascination for the Perons shows very well in his interviews as well as in this novel.

Santa Evita was a bestseller in Argentina, however, as an English reader, I felt it to be quite jarring. It begins with her death and moves backwards and jumps all over the place, from interviews with Eva’s mother, some people who had known Eva, the saga of Eva’s corpse and also contains many of Martinez’s own musings. In this case I found it, to quote an Amazon reviewer to be ‘a novel about a novel.’ In fact, I remember when I ordered a copy of the English version in 2005 that I was so disappointed that after I had finished it I decided to write my own version of her story.

That is not to knock this novel as it was obviously a labor of love on Martinez’s part and I truly did empathize with Eva in some parts of the book, such as where he describes her burning incident. I must state though, that this novel is more to tell the story of Eva’s afterlife as a wandering corpse and a retelling of her life in the way I narrated Eva’s story was obviously not what Martinez wanted. To quote him ‘She (Evita) is the summary of our national preoccupation with death. In Argentina we are never more alive than when we are contemplating death.’ I would recommend this book though to get a feel for some of the mysteries surrounding Eva’s corpse, although many of these scenes are quite disturbing, such as an officer telling his men to ‘line up. Pee on her.’If you know Spanish, I highly recommend the Spanish version over the English one and included are my favorite versions of the covers of this amazing work, my favorite being the cover of a dying but still very lovely Eva. 4 out of 5 stars.
“Why try to govern a country when you can become a saint?”

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