A review of Absent City by Ricardo Piglia (both book and graphic novel)

I should preface this review by admitting that I picked up the graphic novel of this science fiction book before discovering that it was a slightly longer novella. What intrigued most about the graphic novel whose illustrator is Luis Scafati was the mixed media approach to the noir story about a truth machine that take stories and retells them, creates all possible variations of it, ultimately encompassing the truth into its variants.  Scafati does an excellent job of recreating the film noir space, mixing pictures of actual offices with dark ink traces and outlines, as if suggesting that the world is always a mix of imagination and reality. Our brains must interpret even if we do not want them to. Our brains are truth machines that have trouble teasing out their own confabulations from actual events.

I have to admit that I enjoyed the graphic novel a lot more than the novella, which I found slightly confusing when it tried to cover some of the stories the truth machine develops.  The graphic novel clearly marked where the main story arch about Junior, a detective in search of the machine, is interrupted to reveal the stories the machine is spewing out of its mechanical mouth. These side stories were a couple of pages long in the graphic novel and much longer in the novella, where I felt I was being taken away from the suspense of Junior’s story.

I liked the idea of the truth machine that reconfigures stories to finally arrive at the truth about the regimes. It seems that with the current state of affairs in the US, the CIA and its torture methods, there might be a machine out there that is wedging the truth into the public’s consciousness. We might forget, but the machine, wherever it may be, never does.

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