Saturday, January 09, 2010

La segunda vida de las Flores- Argentine novel by Jorge Fernandez Diaz

La segunda vida de las Flores- the second life of Flores - is a delightful novel which deals with love, affairs and emotions in a typical Porteño ( Buenos Aires city) way. It is about the conquests of Machos and the way they get it back from the Latino women who play their own games and how the two sides seek and elude each other.

The story starts with the character of Leno Frangolini who is a legendary seductor. He has affairs with dozens of women. He enjoys the chase and hunts them in cafes, bars and Milongas ( Tango parties) . He moves from one lover to the next smoothly and pleasantly without causing hurt to them. When he turns eighty, he goes for his last conquest ( reminds me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez´s last book ¨memory of my melancholy whores¨) to a Milonga and picks up a woman who had always wanted to dance with him but was never invited by him. She is thrilled when he takes her on the floor and leads with the touch of a maestro. But Leno´s body gives up. It is way behind his spirit and causes a sudden pain in the waist causing a minor disaster on the dance floor. He comes back home, shows his album of affairs to his disciple Fernandez, goes to sleep and dies....
Fernandez, the disciple of Leno, is a journalist. He falls in love with Milagros the Mexican girl who has come to Buenos Aires for a photo shoot of Palermo neighbourhood. Her real reason for coming to Buenos Aires is to look for her Argentine father Durmes , who abandoned his Mexican wife with four small kids including Milagros. She wants to take revenge on the irresponsible father. Fernandez helps her in locating him. Milagros runs the car over her father in the street, killing him. The next day she escapes to Mexico. Fernandes is unable to get over his love who has just disappeared without even a goodbye kiss. He goes to Mexico looking for her desperately. He tracks her down in a small town away from Mexico city. But he gets a shock when he discovers that Milagros is living with her Lesbian friend. Disillusioned, he gets back to Buenos Aires and publishes a novel on the story of Milagros. At the launching of the book many of the lovers of his guru Frangolini and another lover of Durmes turn up.

The novel is not just about the Macho affairs. Female characters such as Colorada, Nerina and Amapola have equally fascinating adventures and escapades. Colorada is bored with her married life with a successful husband, lovely kids and a perfect family in the eyes of the others. She goes for an online romance with a guy who turns out to be a complete liar. Mora is addicted to romance and conquers the conqueror Leno himself. But when the conqueror leaves her for other adventures and comes back later for a second time, she turns him down saying.. there is no more cooking in the kitchen... She philosophises ¨love is an energising driving force which makes one want to be with another person. When there is no drive, why keep a prisoner?¨She turns out to be a narcissist mother interfering with the life and love affairs of her daughter, trying to advise her to get the ideal husband, whom she could never find. Nerina is a puzzle to the conquerors and confuses even the Peronists with her ambivalent political inclinations. Prof Murena, who is hypnotised by her love goes round and round in his cyle around the pond in Palermo, seeing her ghost. Then there is Patricia the boss of Fernandez who is a practical no-nonsense woman. She takes care of Fernandez when he gets lost in love and frustrations. She understands the weaknesses of the romantic Fernandez and rescues him without judging him or manipulating him.

The story brings out the essence of the life and spirit of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires, called as Porteños. The locale of the story is Palermo , the upper middle class neighbourhood.

Montecarlo bar/cafe is the scene of conquests and seductions. This is the hunting ground of the Great seductor and his disciple. The cafes and bars play an important part not only in novels but in the real life of the Porteños. They sit there for hours together reading, thinking and fantasising when they are alone. Friends sit together talking, debating and arguing about every subject under the sun. Lovers exchange glances and endearments and are lost in long kisses, intoxicationed with the wines and the caffeine of the cafe cortado.

No porteño story wil be complete without therapy and psycho analysis. The Porteños are obesessed with the shrinks as much as they are attached to books, parks and cafes. The Great seductor holds forth on the psychology of women and the art of dealing with them. He classifies his women into two types; precious stones and semiprecious stones. As he grows older he settles for semiprecious ones which are less demanding. He sums up his philosophy with a typical Porteño remark, ¨each makes his or her own pelicula ( film ) .¨

This is the first novel I have read in the original Spanish language. I surprised myself finishing this 246 page book in one week. I had always preferred to read Latin American novels in English translation since I was afraid that it would take months for me to complete them in Spanish language. I am now encouraged to try more books in Spanish.

The author Jorge Fernandez Diaz works for La Nacion newspaper of Argentina. This is his latest novel published in October 2009. He has a bit of the touch of Mario Vargas Llosa, my favourite Latin American author.

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