Old Street Books, £9.99 Order at a discount from the The Independent Bookshop

Book review: Operation Massacre, By Rodolfo Walsh, trans. Daniella Gitlin

This powerful testimonial of state terror is relayed by a literary master who died writing

Argentina was not an easy place to be in the mid-1950s. In 1955, the populist dictator Juan Perón was deposed by a military coup that put another general, Aramburu, in power. Even the mention of Perón's name was outlawed and terror reigned, a precise intimation of what was to follow Perón's brief return to power in 1972.

Get this book at the discounted price of £9.49 from The Independent Bookshop or call 0843 0600 030

Movements opposed to Aramburu's putsch adopted elements of Peronism to maintain momentum, fracturing into the militant Juventud Perónista (youth-student movement) and the Montoneros (guerrilla). Rodolfo Walsh's most famous work is not only a meticulous quest for first-hand testimonies to the armed forces' Operation Massacre, but for the reasons behind it. So on to his own raison d'etre as an established author forced into militant action. It opens in June 1956 when Walsh witnessed the opening shots of the Peronist General Valle's failed rebellion in an assault on the police department. "I haven't forgotten how, standing by the window blinds, I heard a recruit dying in the street who did not say, 'Long live the nation' but instead: 'Don't leave me alone here, you sons of bitches.'"

There followed the round-up and secret execution of 18 unarmed civilians. Walsh acknowledges his reaction: "I'm not interested in Valle. I'm not interested in Perón. I'm not interested in revolution. Can I return to playing chess?"

He is not to be let off so lightly on learning there were one, two ... finally seven severely injured survivors of the botched execution. They shared a status of "zombies", and a reluctance to be interviewed. Walsh tracked and traced each to provide this detailed reconstruction of facts according to journalism's best answers to the four elemental questions "Where? When? What? Who?", in this decon-struction of lies voiced by military dictatorships.

His book is also a vindication of that most original and significant of Latin American literary genres, often lost in the welter of fuss about magical realism (although Garcia Márquez rated Walsh as a key writer) – that of testimony. Walsh's evidence is drawn from survivors and witnesses, among whom he temporarily counted. He died on 25 March 1977, four years after joining the Montoneros, one day after posting the manuscript to his Open Letter to the Military Junta, addressing General Videla, initiator the infamous "dirty war".

Or rather, Walsh was murdered, in broad daylight and on a public city street, by soldiers. As Walsh accurately described the actions of a clandestine firing squad as a massacre, we are morally obliged to reciprocate with like recognition. Walsh died as he wrote, committed to match words with deeds and so give meaning to lives robbed. It is a powerful assertion of the force of testimonial writing relayed by a literary master. Read it and weep.

More importantly, to understand how terrorism functions in the hands of the powerful, as an instrument of indiscriminate State manipulation, even massacre, perpetually dictated by the supposedly paramount demands of "national security".

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece