Vol. XXII, #1 Italo Calvino / Ursule Molinaro / B. S. Johnson
Review of Contemporary Fiction
The Tenth Circle, by Mempo Giardinelli. Trans. Andrea G. Labinger
reviewed by Alan Tinkler
Latin American Literary Review Press, 2001. 93 pp. Paper: $13.95.
Mempo Giardinelli’s The Tenth Circle is a fast-paced survey of an adulterous couple’s fall. The quick first chapter comes to a close when Romero, the first-person narrator, “offhandedly” suggests, “We ought to kill your husband.” When Griselda responds, “And how would we do it?” their descent into the circles of hell becomes inevitable. Romero, a successful real estate mogul, compares the small Argentinean town of Resistencia to the fictitious Peyton Place-a small New England town where the powerful Martin Peyton rules with ruthless abandon. Like Peyton Place, where “nothing happens until everything happens,” the mundane becomes overwhelmed by an ever-widening circle of murders, starting with Antonio, Griselda’s husband and Romero’s business partner. As they make their dash to Peru, Griselda and Romero find it convenient to continue their murderous spree. In the end, Griselda and Romero pit themselves against each other “because it all came down to the fact that one of us had to kill the other. We had reached a dead-end street, and just as I comprehended it, so did Griselda: either I killed her, or she was going to kill me.” The Tenth Circle, Mempo Giardinelli’s second novel to be translated into English, is similar to his more successful Sultry Moon, which topped Argentina’s best-sellers list for twenty-seven weeks and won Mexico’s National Book Award in 1999. Sultry Moon is also a fast-paced thriller in which a successful Argentinean student, a graduate of a prestigious university in France, becomes a violent aggressor on the run over the course of an evening. Even though The Tenth Circle repeats a number of the moves made in Sultry Moon, the hour spent reading the novel is an hour well spent.