Resistance by Julián Fuks
Edinburgh. Charco Press. 2018. 154 pages.
In Resistance, Julián Fuks explores how the horror of life under an oppressive government—in this case, the military dictatorship in 1970s Argentina—inscribes itself into a family’s life, affecting even those members who weren’t yet born during those trying times. Sebastián, the narrator of Resistance, uses his older brother’s adoption as a lens through which to examine his family history, their present-day estrangements, the act of writing, and the nature of political resistance.
Sebastián’s parents, both dissidents, fled Argentina for the relative safety of Brazil when his older brother was an infant. Now Sebastián obsesses over his brother’s origins and his parents’ role as political actors, mining incidents from his childhood to try to understand his brother and why they’ve grown distant from each other as adults. The subtext to this is the book that Sebastián is struggling to write about his family and how that guides his explorations.
Of his writing, Fuks has said, “Soy un autor que no sabe inventar” (I’m an author who doesn’t know how to make things up), and the number of biographical details shared by author and narrator tip Resistance into the category of autofiction. Fuks toys with this idea in the last few pages of the novel, when his frustrated narrator shares his manuscript with his parents, who critique his view of events, offering their own interpretations and memories in place of his.
Fuks’s novel arrives in English at an opportune moment. In describing how his parents remember their life in Argentina, he finds that they’ve never fully shaken off their fear of being found out, and he asks them why they are afraid now. “Dictatorships can come back,” Sebastián’s father warns him, a maxim that the author himself recently reflected on in the Guardian when discussing the election of Jair Bolsonaro: “The journey Jair Bolsonaro is planning has as its destination a past that we have never overcome, dark decades that have never left us.” Resistance is an examination of one such past as well as a possible roadmap for the future.
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