Non-Fiction: El amante uruguayo

Author: Santiago Roncagliolo
-Punto de Lectura
-US Release Date: 09-25-2012
-Reviewed by:Eduardo de Lamadrid
-Review Release:September 10, 2012

The Lorca legend and the myths that surround his death seemingly have no end. His final resting place is still unknown, and now, after the rediscovery of the writer of Enrique Amorim, an Uruguayan millionaire who was Lorca's lover when the latter was in Argentina, the question arises if Amorim was able to steal Lorca's body.

It is a fascinating story that Santiago Roncagliolo has captured in his book El amante uruguayo. It is true-life story, a monumental investigative journey that encompasses Buenos Aires in the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War and postwar Paris, and in which some of the greatest creative geniuses of the 20th century, Picasso, Chaplin, Neruda and Borges, to name some, are involved.

Roncagliolo's inquiry began with the question of ascertaining if was true that Amorim, a seducer, Communist and married homosexual, has stolen Lorca's cadaver. After all, he affirmed that he done so during a homage to the poet that Amorim presided over in Salto, on the river's edge, before a credulous crowd. That day in 1953, 17 years after Lorca's death, the Uruguayan buried a white box, supposedly containing the poet's bones, and dedicated a monument in his honor.

"Forty-eight years later the monument and its mysterious contents are still there. Intact," says Roncagliolo, "but nobody wants to say one word about the truth of Lorca being buried there."

True or not, the story proved to be fascinating because it revealed the existence of character seemingly out of a novel, who left a larger than life legacy.

Amorim was a writer with 40 books to his name, but his life was his best work. He knew much, but he could not tell it, because in the 1950s one could not talk freely about Lorca's or Benavente's homosexuality, nor about the shady dealings of the Communist party, of which he was a militant member.

According to Roncagliolo, Amorin, from whom artists like Picasso borrowed money (that later proved to be costly debts), left a vast amount of material for a biography. The book, which reads like a thriller at times, is replete with anecdotes and discoveries, affirming that Amorim and Lorca were lovers when the latter was in Argentina and Uruguay, and also for some time in Madrid, with picaresque letters that reveal a relationship of accomplices. Amorim thought that he was the cause of Lorca's murder, because of a street conversation between the two that was overheard, and in which both admitted their loves and their political phobias.

Roncagliolo's primary sources include letters, photographs, and documents, rescued for the most part from the library that Esther Haedo, Amorim's widow, kept for years in Uruguay, and her memoirs. The documents reveal memorable scenes, like the supposedly secret meeting between Chaplin, Picasso, and Sartre, all recognized as Communists today. But there is a question about Sartre's identity: Chaplin's description of Sartre seems more like Amorim. Was Amorim pretending to be Sartre?

We don't have to trust the chameleonic Amorim, but we can appreciate him. In any event, Amorim has left us a portrait of the 20th century, of someone was involved in everything with everybody, but who wasn't in the photo.