La Hija del Campeón – Florencia Etcheves


I want you to notice, when I’m not around…
– Radiohead, “Creep”
…a los golpes entendió que ella formaba parte de la legión de los destrozados. […with punches, she understood that she was part of the legion of the broken] (36)
Timing has never been my thing. Opportunities usually come too early to realize that they are opportunities. Sometimes, too late to even think about them. Dreams seem to work the same way. Apparently, they come to take place in your mind when you simply cannot fulfill them. “If you can imagine it, you can do it”. That is a lovely Disney concept that not always have much to do with reality. I have always imagined living in Strawberry Shortcake’s town but of course, that is not possible. I imagined it, I could not do it.
One dream that came too late for me is journalism. It came to my existence perhaps long ago, hiding behind my love for literature. However, my mind became aware of that a little too late, when I already had a profession. So, instead, I chose to read. I chose to read newspapers, magazines and books that skillful journalists have written. People who, maybe, have always known what they wanted to do with their lives. People touched by the magic wand of timing, with an admirable connection with their dreams and souls.
Florencia Etcheves, a well-known journalist that, like Ricardo Canaletti (whose Crímenes sorprendentes de la Historia argentina I reviewed here), specializes in Criminology. Her first book was La Virgen en tus ojos, which I haven’t read yet. I simply saw La Hija del Campeón—her second work—in some bookshop and decided to try a genre that I am not quite used to read.
And what a surprise… This book is nothing but intensity. It is divided into three parts and it begins telling the story of a famous boxer, Pipo Larrabe, a worldwide champion. The personification of violence and impulsivity. A man with a certificate of poverty and the incapacity for dreaming. His hunger for possession and his lack of clear thoughts led him to murder a woman. The combination of his anger, his detached vision towards women—those “whores”—and an indifferent balcony ended the life of Elena Baldini: his ex wife, the mother of his own child, Ángela. A little girl whose innocence was contaminated by the acts of his bad-tempered father. After the murder of her mother, she was found hiding in her tree house by a young policeman. One that would be known for his expertise, some years later. From that moment on, a new case makes its appearance, waiting to be solved. Craving for justice. A new case in the phantasmagorical location of Key West, USA. The ghosts from the past have never abandoned Ángela, the champion’s daughter. Same thing with Jerry, the police chief of Key West. Same thing with Juánez, the trustworthy Argentinian policeman.
Same thing with every one of us. Nothing screams so loud like ghosts in the middle of solitude.
La soledad tiene esas ventajas: no hay manera de que algo se modifique sin que llame la atención. (179)
Etcheves fuses her knowledge in Criminology with an intriguing story and all the faces that humanity has. Disturbing situations are combined with a unique attention to details and a subtle humor that breaks the ice just for a moment. Do not trust that light ambiance because it can last only for a paragraph, a sentence… for you could find yourself trapped again in the restless atmosphere of cruelty and mystery that the author so well can handle. Atmosphere and time. Time is a key factor in any story. And the writer manages it with remarkable skill. Nothing is too rushed, nothing goes too slow. With exquisite style, she knows what to share and when.
La Hija del Campeón was my first Argentinian crime novel. One of those books you wish you could have written because it deals with several topics such as the situations that a lot of women have to endure, all around the globe, with the respect and sensibility the matter deserves.
You might not even notice, but violence takes many forms and appears in many places. Places that may look quite normal on the surface. Every household is an entire universe.
El homicidio es un acontecimiento individual que no se repite nunca de la misma manera. (23)
Every act of violence is unique. And the philosophical question makes its way to our minds, again. What makes someone to think that the only way out, the only solution to all problems can be found by taking someone’s life? People kill. Whether its for the placer a sick mind needs, or mere survival. Addictions, demons, misogyny, money, the past. While justifications are dancing inside someone’s head…
En definitiva, el mundo no es un lugar compasivo. (17)
…tragedy awaits. And it does not know any limit.
Etcheves took all that, the suffering of everyone involved, the wish of giving voice to those in need and those who can no longer speak, the usual sense of invisibility—that need for being acknowledged, being noticed by someone, when we are present, mostly when we are not around— and transformed everything into a book. Something that, like the real stories, you will not forget.
One of those books you wish you could have written.
Muchas veces había pensado en ser pintor o músico, pero con la sensibilidad extrema no es suficiente Es necesario tener talento… (86)

Not complaining. Not a victim. Timing and the art of words have never been my thing.

* Photo credit: via Clockwise Cat.
Book cover via Goodreads.


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