Departing at Dawn
Translated by Alice Weldon
March 23, 1976. Berta watches as her lover, Atilio, a union organizer, is thrown from a window to his death on the sidewalk below. The next day, Colonel Jorge Rafael Videla stages a coup d’état and a military dictatorship takes control of Argentina. Though never a part of Atilio’s union efforts, Berta is on a list to be “disappeared” and flees to relatives in the countryside. There she becomes part of the family she knows only from old photographs: Aunt Avelina, who blasts records from an old player; Uncle Nepomuceno, who watches slugs slither in the garden every afternoon; and Uncle Javier, who sits in his tiny grocery store day and night. When Berta learns that government officials are still looking for her, she realizes she must run even further to save her life.
Gloria Lisé describes a terrifying period in her nation's history with a touch that is light yet penetrating. A powerful portrait of Argentinians caught up in traumas that have haunted the country ever since.
"It never ceases to astound me how many people around the world choose to deny a dark period in the history of their respective nations. Anyone anywhere today in need of the reminder that political change begins with speaking out should read this testimony."
“I just loved it because of its immense human depth and high quality of writing.”
"From the heart of Argentina comes a novel of the heart, where the outbreak of our worst military dictatorship is told with utmost reserve. Departing at Dawn is a beautifully simple, poetic story of solidarity and love, with memorable characters painted in the tender strokes of a watercolor."
“Deeply endearing. . . . The author offers no apologies or heroes, only humble beings . . . whose portraits are remarkably true-to-life. All kinds of readers will recognize themselves somewhere in this compelling narrative.”
"With graceful writing . . . Lisé sketches Berta's quest for autonomy and self against the vivid, violent backdrop of a country seeking the same."
"An intriguing, fast-paced fictional narrative of the 1976 Argentine dictatorship. This postmodern parable tells the story of a nomadic female subject on her fugitive escape from torture and death."
"As homage for a generation sacrificed and a call for vigilance against national pogroms, Lisé taps memory as living historical archive to reveal the indomitable Argentine spirit of survival incarnate in its immigrant, indigenous and working class peoples. Highly recommended for high school and college libraries and curriculums including English, Latin American, history, women's studies, and cultural studies."
"Gloria Lisé's Departing at Dawn follows the trail blazed by Alicia Partnoy, Alicia Kozameh, Cristina Feijóo and Nora Strejilevich, and makes a significant contribution to our understanding of that era. Alice Weldon's remarkable translation faithfully renders the tone of this poignant novel."