VCU CABELL FIRST NOVELIST AWARD FINALIST
CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE LONGLIST
“A debut novel as impressive as they come. Tough, wily, dreamlike.” –Seattle Times
A decade after fleeing for his life, a man is pulled back to Argentina by an undying love.
In 1976, Tomás Orilla is a medical student in Buenos Aires, where he has moved in hopes of reuniting with Isabel, a childhood crush. But the reckless passion that has long drawn him is leading Isabel ever deeper into the ranks of the insurgency fighting an increasingly oppressive regime. Tomás has always been willing to follow her anywhere, to do anything to prove himself. Yet what exactly is he proving, and at what cost to them both?
It will be years before a summons back arrives for Tomás, now living as Thomas Shore in New York. It isn’t a homecoming that awaits him, however, so much as an odyssey into the past, an encounter with the ghosts that lurk there, and a reckoning with the fatal gap between who he has become and who he once aspired to be. Raising profound questions about the sometimes impossible choices we make in the name of love, Hades, Argentina is a gripping, ingeniously narrated literary debut.
Praise for Hades, Argentina:
“It is not always ‘us versus them.’ It is the ‘me versus me’ that plays out in individuals as they wrestle with what it means to do the right thing. . . . Loedel draws the line of complicity ever closer. . . . asking readers to consider at what point the witness becomes victimizer. . . . [He] continually works to erase the notion that only the evil commit evil acts, which adds to the horror. How do ‘ordinary men’ become instruments of a repressive state?” –Los Angeles Times
“This haunting historical novel . . . weaves betrayal and sacrifice so intricately that one cannot be disentangled from the other” –The New Yorker
“Elegant, searching. . . Amid echoes of the Orpheus myth and swirls of magic. . . . a descent into an underworld of memory and brutality.” –O, The Oprah Magazine
“A debut novel as impressive as they come. Tough, wily, dreamlike. . . The tangles of action, intention, and self-deception [Loedel] evokes are spellbinding in ways that will hit home in any society where democracy, the rule of law, and the very concept of the truth are in peril.” –The Seattle Times
“Powerful . . . The plain delicacy of Mr Loedel’s prose suits not only the horror of his subject, but also his novel’s risky premise. . . . hell is at once metaphor and setting, literary conceit and emotional reality. Tomás’s sojourn there is a fittingly moving tribute to the author’s sister and her many fellow victims.” –The Economist
“Surely one of the most astonishing debut novels of the year. . . . In scene after scene, Loedel is as masterful in his prose on love and heartache as he is unflinching in his descriptions of the torture applied to the perceived enemies of the regiment. . . . Like Virgil leading Dante through the furnace, Loedel’s narrative hand allows us to follow along without giving up our sense of hope.” –Interview
“Haunting. . . the heavy burden of memory and an urge to sever oneself from the past animates this powerful, evocative, and intelligent novel.” –Electric Literature
“[Loedel] reimagines the platitude ‘the personal is political’ by injecting enchantment and morality into one man’s entanglements with forces aligned against him. Hades, Argentina announces a major career, and we can expect great work from this gifted writer in the future.” –Harvard Review
“Weaving history and humanity, Loedel crafts a powerful and compelling narrative of a seemingly dystopian world that, unfortunately, was all too real.” –The Millions
“A gorgeously told tale of really tough subjects–terror, betrayal, love, and more.” –Alma
“A complex and intimate meditation on love, guilt, and the decisions that haunt us forever.” –Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[A] haunting story about repression and the vulnerability of youth. . . A devastating reminder of the tragic costs of politics made personal.” –Booklist (starred review)
“Mesmerizing. . . Loedel’s unflinching look at human frailty adds a revelatory new chapter to South American Cold War literature.” –Publishers Weekly
“An astonishingly powerful novel about the complex nature of guilt. It sets the personal against the political with real emotional accuracy and sharp narrative skill.” –Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn and Nora Webster
“A remarkable novel, as imaginatively bold as it is morally complex. It will stay with me for a very long time.” –Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire
“Deception, violence, a society on the brink, Hades, Argentina haunted me long after I turned the final page. Loedel is a writer of enormous talent.” –Elliot Ackerman, author of Red Dress in Black and White
“Hades, Argentina brilliantly explores the fault lines between heroism and complicity, guilt and trauma, and love and betrayal. Daniel Loedel has written a haunting and beautiful novel.” –Phil Klay, author of Redeployment
“A stunning descent into the haze of memory and history. In his interrogation of complicity and violence, Loedel explores how institutionalized evil disappears humans not only from the physical world, but from their own souls as well.” –Francisco Cantú, author of The Line Becomes A River
“Strange, gorgeous, and terrifying–a book for the grievers, and for those of us who wish we could turn back time to remedy past mistakes–and so, for all of us.” –R. O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
“A remarkable novel, personal and political, elegiac and intimate, with a tenderness and wisdom evident in every passage. A beautiful book.” –Dinaw Mengestu, author of All Our Names
“Loedel writes in the venerable Argentinian tradition of mixing the political and the supernatural, but his novel comes from a different language and a new sensibility. It took me to places I had never visited before.” –Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Sound of Things Falling
– From the Publisher
An Argentinian American unspools his dark memories of the Dirty War in Loedel’s mesmerizing debut. Tomás Orilla, a naive medical student, was drawn into Argentina’s dangerous political miasma in 1976 to impress his first love, the left-wing activist Isabel. The reader first meets Tomás in 1986 in New York City, where Tomás had fled 10 years earlier with a forged passport. Now married to an American woman, he shares with her a conveniently selective version of his story (“the full, fleshed-out story still wasn’t one I was eager to examine, much less hand over”). Tomás returns to Buenos Aires after receiving a call from Isabel’s mother, who is terminally ill with cancer. There, he encounters what appears to be the ghost of a former mentor who takes him to a crypt underneath an old detention center, where he relives a series of horrifying events, some of which he was party to in the lead-up to a difficult choice he made for his own survival. The theme of ghosts is bent a few ways–ghosts appear in memories, the crypt, and on the street–and it becomes an apt, poignant descriptor for the people who were disappeared and the agony of their loved ones who had to carry on without knowing what happened to them. Loedel’s unflinching look at human frailty adds a revelatory new chapter to South American Cold War literature. (Jan.)
– Publishers Weekly
DEBUT A death-haunted man returns to the scene of heinous crimes and confronts his role in committing them in this spectral debut by book editor Loedel. Ten years after escaping Buenos Aires during the height of Argentina’s Dirty War, Tomás Orilla, now living as Thomas Shore in New York, is summoned back by the imminent death of a longtime family friend. His feels compelled to say good-bye, but his real reason for returning is the chance he might see the dying woman’s daughter Isabel, the source of his teenage devotion and the cause of his ultimate undoing. In 1976, Isabel got caught up in the leftist insurgent movement resisting the U.S.-backed military junta and recruited Tomás to join forces, using his affections against him. Linking up with a slippery mentor known as the Colonel, he became a double agent, feeding information back to Isabel and her allies while losing all traces of his former humanity. Now, in 1986, with unresolved feelings about his love for Isabel and what he did in its name, Tomás reunites with the Colonel, embarking on an Orphean quest to rescue her from the underworld or, at the very least, rescue himself from joining her in the abyss of history. VERDICT A powerful and complex novel, told in hallucinatory prose that challenges us to work out what is real vs. what is imagined. Recommended for all literary fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, 6/17/20.]–Michael Pucci, South Orange P.L., NJ
– Library Journal
After a decade abroad, a refugee of Argentina’s Dirty War returns to Buenos Aires, where ghosts of his past guide him through a nightmarish labyrinth of memory, guilt, and loss.
In 1976, Tomás Orilla disappeared from Argentina without a trace, smuggled out by his childhood mentor, the Colonel, after coming dangerously close to death at the hands of the oppressive military junta. Now, 10 years later, he is Thomas Shore, a translator in New York City who is haunted by the traumas of the past and contending with a failing marriage. The impending death of Pichuca, an old family friend, occasions his return to Buenos Aires, where he moved as a teenager under the pretense of attending medical school, though his true motive was to be closer to Pichuca’s daughter, Isabel, a spirited and fiery young woman whom he loved since childhood. But the city Tomás returns to is riddled with ghosts: the ghosts of Isabel and the Colonel, the ghosts of the disappeared and the ghosts of their captors, the ghost of the young man he once was. With the Colonel’s spirit as his guide, Tomás returns to the sites containing all his darkest memories and his most profound regrets, and the boundary between the present and the past becomes increasingly indistinct. Back in 1976, Isabel, who is involved with a leftist insurgent group, exploits Tomás’ devotion to her and requests that he work for her as a double agent, launching a sequence of events that compromises his life: spying on the Colonel and finding employment at a concentration camp for dissidents. However, this is less a tour through memory than a reckoning, as Tomás struggles to identify the discrete choices he would need to undo to prevent Isabel’s disappearance and to save himself from the nightmare of his past.
A complex and intimate meditation on love, guilt, and the decisions that haunt us forever.
– Kirkus Reviews