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Departing at Dawn

Gloria Lise

Publication Year: 2009

Gloria Lisé's novel describes the neofascist military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-83) from an intimate point of view. It is a powerful portrait of Argentines caught up in the traumas that have haunted their country ever since. Lisé’s lyrical story revolves around Berta, who watches as her lover, a union organizer, is thrown from a balcony to his death the night before military dictator General Jorge Rafael Videla comes to power. Learning that she is on a list to be ‘disappeared,’ Berta flees to live with relatives in the countryside. She receives messages from her town, describing the violence of the junta, and when Berta discovers that government officials are still looking for her, she is forced into exile.

Published by: The Feminist Press

title page

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pp. v

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pp. ix-xii

On March 24, 1976, yet another military dictatorship took power in Argentina, and I turned fifteen. It should have been a time in my life for planting the seeds of plans and dreams for the future whose fruit would develop as I matured. My country should have helped make such things possible. ...

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A Pig’s Head

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pp. 1-3

They threw him off a balcony at the headquarters of the Tucum

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2 The Ring

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pp. 4-8

You didn’t say a word to me; you just came to me after a little while with that handful of bills, all wrapped up carefully, Mother, because that is also the way you are, you are a Riera, introverted, wrapped into yourself, a pure Riojan. You gave me your pension, and I know that was all the money you have, and your blue bag, ...

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3 A World Within a World

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pp. 9-12

Contrasting melodies could be heard around the barrio of Matadero, the melodies of many people arriving from other parts looking for work in Tucum

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4 This is My Family

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pp. 13-18

It is March 24. My mother’s name is Amalia del Valle Riera, and my father was Manual Rojas del Pino, son of Alfonso the writer. I have four younger brothers: Carlos Alberto, Sergio Daniel, and the twins Juan José and Juan María. I was born in San Miguel de Tucumán on June 20, 1955, and they named me Berta Cristina; ...

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5 Listening to the Radio

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pp. 19-28

The bus pulled into Ciudad Loreto, which was nothing more than a group of houses that had kept the name given to it by its first settlers, people who had had to face a harsh climate, whose droughts dashed any hope for industry, gardens, or progress that might justify the name “city.” It was well past daybreak ...

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6 Flowers

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pp. 29-34

La Rioja is the same in spring, summer, and fall, but in winter something different starts to happen because San Nicol

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7 The Photograph

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pp. 35-39

There were five siblings, three brothers and two sisters. The brothers and my mother, Amalia, looked a lot alike. They had the characteristic Inca face—a deep dark brown color—and they were tall, stout, and muscular. Their hair, jet black in their youth before turning prematurely gray, was thick and straight ...

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8 Aunt Avelina

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pp. 40-46

Very little of her face could be seen because of her thick, heavy glasses, which made her look so ugly that she inspired sympathy, a bit like the bewitched toads in fairy tales that could change into princes at any moment, merely by being kissed by the right person. But Avelina did not admit to any physical ...

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9 Her Body

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pp. 47-51

Berta suddenly felt it was time to leave that parlor, for her body was telling her she had to live, even though death was still lurking close by, from her right side all the way to as far as she could see. She had to live because she was a young Tucumana, with dark skin and dark brown eyes, whose hands and feet were ...

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10 Twenty-one Years Old

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pp. 52-56

It hasn’t been easy for me to understand, but I have finally realized that you just can’t spend the rest of your life crying. Besides, in June I’ll be twenty-one, when I can tell the world that I am a woman and when my mother can feel she has finished her work with me, that she brought me up and gave me her best. ...

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11 Trist

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pp. 57-60

Berta was delighted by the snails and their journeys, which unfolded as smoothly and gently as fall’s colors. Her main focus was on gathering the dry leaves that collected in the patios and trying to predict how many more there would be the next day and the day after, and how long it would take for all the leaves to ...

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12 Ave Mar

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pp. 61-67

Aunt Avelina had given Berta some hand-me-down clothes from an old chest so that she began wearing a robe and slippers. She had her long hair pulled back in a ponytail, the way she had worn it when little, and she even had on half socks like her aunt’s. She swept the house, sometimes singing and sometimes silently. ...

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13 Perhaps

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pp. 68-72

Fall passed and the Southern Hemisphere winter arrived with a freezing, dust-laden wind that drove everybody inside by four in the afternoon while it whipped the clothes hanging on the line and threatened the delicate plants in cans. Uncle Trist

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14 The Messenger

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pp. 73-82

When I saw the man known to everybody in Villa 9 de Julio as Mr. ThousandFive, I saw my house, my mother and brothers, and I think, even Atilio alive, my books on the kitchen table, and my mother’s knitting next to the pot of freshly brewed hot coffee. “So that my daughter won’t poison herself with artificial things,” ...

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15 Hell

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pp. 83-88

Aunt Avelina had looked at Mr. ThousandFive in her toadish way, ready for the attack, ready to spit straight into the horrible messenger’s eye. It infuriated her that a man so disreputable-looking and of such low social rank, who was dirty even when clean, could use her sister’s name and dare to converse with her niece, ...

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16 The Window

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pp. 89-101

She stayed in that room for three days and three nights, going through all kinds of torment that she supposed would prepare her for when she herself would have to face the all-too-real torture that her friends, neighbors, and colleagues were surely already suffering. She thought about people in Tucum

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17 Olpa

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pp. 102-107

Olpa was beyond Olta but before Olma, and on the few maps that actually showed it, it was merely a dot in the middle of a cross, the point where two roads intersected, where the traveler could tempt fate by selecting among the four cardinal directions. Anybody able to read a map knows that at whatever point ...

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18 The Indian

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pp. 108-113

The Indian resembled Uncle Trist

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19 A Visitor

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pp. 114-118

A clear winter morning was dawning when Berta awoke to the sound of hands clapping in the hall and went out to find a wide and very ugly person wearing black from head to toe. A green Renault Gordini was parked at the door to the store. The visitor’s face was quite frightening, split in two by a horrible ...

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20 Cachir

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pp. 119-123

A year passed and another winter arrived with droughts and extreme winds. The rainy season had again let nature spur the growth of the few trees that could survive in Olpa, and the rocky pasture that the herds of goats had been living on ever since the first governor had brought them over. That was when the ...

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21 Lusaper Gregorian

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pp. 124-134

By this point in her life Lusaper Gregorian was tired, and her legs—big as an elephant’s because of swelling—barely held her up. Her body, which had seen light for the first time on the first day of the twentieth century, was set on feet already flattened by weight. But because those feet always wore formal black shoes, ...

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22 Singing

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pp. 135-141

One big party had begun for Argentina on May 25, 1973. The Peronist government assumed power and immediately called for the release of twelve hundred political prisoners held by the preceding dictatorship. The uproar surrounding Cámpora’s brief appointment as president12 was accompanied ...

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23 Yacumama

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pp. 142-150

Between the algarroba forest and the first pasture on the farm there is a spring, the only one left. They say that in the past there were lots of them that fed the quebracho trees when there were forests in Olpa, Olta, and Olma. They say that the water spoke sweetly to the gentle people who understood what plants ...

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24 Holy Wood

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pp. 151-160

When she finished reading the letter that Rococo, Mr. ThousandFive’s brother, had brought her several days after it had been written, she bowed her head. Sitting outside in the bad weather under the lamp by the pump, she felt once again the terror that had never totally left her, and that she kept reliving ...


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pp. 161-162

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Historical Note

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pp. 163-166

In 1930, the elected president of Argentina, Hip

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Translator’s Afterword

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pp. 167-175

Viene clareando/Departing at Dawn gives readers an opportunity to remember or learn about Argentina’s extremely traumatic past, reflect on its complex and ever-unfolding present, and construct meaning out of both. Through the moving personal tale of her protagonist, Gloria Lisé successfully illuminates ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781558616479
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558616035

Page Count: 190
Publication Year: 2009