Daughter of Silence

Written by Darrell Lockhart (trans.) Manuela Fingueret
Review by Kristen Hannum

Should you be looking for a short and intelligent novel of meditative prose poetry about torture, silence, and totalitarianism, Daughter of Silence is for you. Rita, the book’s protagonist, is an idealistic Peronista in 1980s Buenos Aires, imprisoned in the notorious “School of Mechanics,” a place of disappearance, torture, and executions.

The chapters go back and forth between Rita’s life and imprisonment, and her imaginings of her mother’s early life and horrific incarceration in the Nazi’s Terezin concentration camp. The book shows well the connection between fascism in Argentina and Nazi Germany. “The sound of the screeching tires on the asphalt still echoes in my head. Arms hoisted me into the air like a ball and tossed me into the truck. I bounced on the metal floor and there was an infinitely long ride during which I thought of my mother, in another truck, on another road, in another place, but with the same violence… Am I there or here?” Rita, who is breaking with a tradition of silence that abets injustice, explains her mother’s legacy: “Here, in this place, she’s stuck to my skin, tattooed like a number.”

I didn’t enjoy this literary novel, but I loved some of its sentences and reminded myself that different people are moved by different styles. Égalité and fraternité have fallen out of favor with so many; it’s therefore good to find a novel about consequences and the fact that totalitarianism repeats itself throughout history. I can imagine a class on corporate fascism (the Argentine generals immediately instituted Milton Friedman’s free market privatizations and deregulations) reading and discussing Daughter of Silence—but it would need to be paired with Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine in order to make sense of the story that Manuela Fingueret doesn’t quite tell.