By Ricardo Piglia
Translated from the Spanish by Sergio Waisman
Winner of the International Romulo Gallegos Novel Prize and National Critics Prize in 2011 and chosen as the best novel in Spanish in 2010, Target in the Night marks the pinnacle of Argentine maestro Ricardo Piglia's remarkable literary career.
Publication Date: November 10, 2015
“Ricardo Piglia may be the best Latin American writer to have appeared since the heyday of Gabriel García Márquez.” —Kirkus Review
Hailed as a modern classic immediately upon publication, Target in the Night is a passionate, politically-charged thriller in which the madness of the detective Croce, a retired police captain, is integral to solving mysteries. In this novel he is dispatched to solve the mysterious murder of Toni Durán, a Puerto Rican living in New York, who arrived in this remote corner of the Pampas in Buenos Aires Province with a flamboyant air, scandalously accompanying the town’s beautiful Belladonna twin sisters. Emilio Renzi, a journalist from a Buenos Aires newspaper who appears in most of Piglia’s work as the author’s own alter ego, is sent to the countryside to cover the story. The investigation and reporting uncover a series of hidden tales that are gradually exposed to reveal an intense and tragic family history reminiscent of King Lear. Target in the Night is a dark, philosophical masterpiece, and won every major literary prize in the Spanish language in 2011.
Ricardo Piglia, one of the most prominent authors of the entire Spanish-language world, was born in Buenos Aires in 1940 and grew up on Mar del Plata. He studied at the Universidad Nacional de la Plata where he majored in history and graduated in 1965. Early in his career, Piglia was connected to the important literary and political magazine Los Libros (1968-1974) and in 1968 began the publication of his first edited collection of detective novels: La Serie Negra. Piglia also established himself as a writer of short stores and was the recipient of distinguished awards. His fiction grapples with the meaning of social and political processes as is evident in the stories collected in the volume Assumed Name, published in English in 1995. Two of his books (Assumed Name and Plata quemada) have inspired films. His novel La ciudad ausente was adapted for opera and shown at The Colón Opera House of Buenos Aires with music by Gerardo Gandini. He received innumerable prizes for his works and for his lifetime's body of literature, including the Casa de las Américas Prize for La invasión, the Boris Vian Prize for Artificial Respiration, the Nacional Prize for La ciudad ausente, the Planeta Prize for Plata quemada, the Premio Iberoamericano de las Letras José Donoso, and for Target in the Night the Romulo Gallegos Prize and the National Critics Prize. A literary critic, essayist, and professor, Piglia taught for several decades at American universities, including at Princeton for fifteen years. As professor, Piglia teaches Spanish American Literature, with special emphasis on 19th and 20th centuries intellectual and cultural history in the Río de la Plata. Interested in literary theory and theory of the novel, he has given seminars about Sarmiento, Onetti, Borges, Arlt, and Puig, as well as on "Paranoid fiction: The detective genre in Latin America" and "Poetics of the novel in Latin America." He currently holds the Walter S. Carpenter Professor of Language, Literature and Civilization of Spain at Princeton.
Sergio Waisman is Professor of Spanish and International Affairs at The George Washington University, where he has been teaching since 2003. He is also Affiliated Faculty of Judaic Studies. He received his Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from UC Berkeley (2000) and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado, Boulder (1995). Prof. Waisman's book Borges and Translation: The Irreverence of the Periphery was published in the US by Bucknell and in Argentina by Adriana Hidalgo (both in 2005). Sergio Waisman has translated six books of Latin American literature including The Absent City by Ricardo Piglia (Duke Univ. Press), for which he received an NEA Translation Fellowship Award in 2000. His first novel, Leaving, was published in the U.S. in 2004 (Intelibooks) and in 2010 as Irse in Argentina (Bajo la Luna). His latest translations are The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela (2008, Penguin Classics) and An Anthology of Spanish-American Modernismo (2007, MLA, with Kelly Washbourne).
Winner of the 2011 Rómula Gallegos Novel Prize
Winner of the National Critics Circle Prize, 2011
Named Best Novel in Spanish in 2010 by El País
One of BBC's Ten Books to Read of December 2015
Author Ricardo Piglia received the 2015 Formentor Prize for a Lifetime Contribution to Literature
"Piglia's postmodern, brainy and sometimes funny take on the detective thriller, and it's an absolute joy to read . . . nothing in Target in the Night is anything less than original — it works both as a clever detective novel and a surprising meditation on the complications of families and the way justice works in the modern world." —Michael Schaub, NPR
"Piglia is a talented storyteller and this is a compelling potboiler, but it's less Agatha Christie and more a tale about the transformation of the Argentine pampas. Piglia opens a window into a fascinating world, leaving the reader hungry for more." —Publishers Weekly
"One of Latin America's most distinctive literary voices." —Alejandro Chacoff, The New Yorker
"A paranoid marvel . . . unlike any detective novel you've read . . . Target in the Night challenges the philosophical merit of a story whose mysteries can be succinctly concluded. It posits that a fear of death, and a fear of embracing a world where hard truth and meaning are nothing more than abstract, idealistic concepts, propels us to reconstruct the past and impose them where they don’t exist, warping that past beyond recognition. Reality cannot be conformed to an easy, coherent narrative, and the more we try, the further submerged into darkness we become." —Caroline North, Dallas Observer
"Target in the Night is as much a historical novel as it is a detective novel; the author uses genre as a convenient package from which to break into a conversation about pressing matters of today." —Olga Zilberbourg, The Common
"Everything I want detective novels to be but rarely are — paranoid, surreal, cynical, philosophical, but, above all, entertaining. Piglia's world is fully formed and constantly peeling back layers of complexity and intrigue. My favorite book of 2015." —Justin Souther, Malaprop's Bookstore & Cafe (Asheville, NC)
"Weird detective novel from South America with a Dupinian detective and a slippery sense of identity and community. Sign me up! So far I'm reminded of Where There's Love, There's Hate, the moments of sustained “sanity” in some of Cesar Aira work, and the more detective-y mytery-y sections of If On a Winter's Night a Traveler. Another weird, awesome book from Deep Vellum." —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books (Cambridge, MA)
"A richly nuanced and sometimes adventurous novel. Piglia’s novel roams through discussion on philosophy, the Jungian analysis of dreams, and the nature of freedom, but hardly a page goes by without some subtle commentary or analysis of the recent history of Argentina, where “there are no values left, only prices.” In Piglia’s Argentina, corruption has twisted the rules of the game so that only the innocent and the idealists are doomed." —Terry Pitts, Vertigo
"If you love paranoid pomo detective novels about neoliberal dictatorship in the Southern Cone, try Ricardo Piglia's Target in the Night." —Aaron Bady
"With a rich cast of enigmatic and colorful characters, Piglia's tale simmers with intrigue and thrilling subtlety. . . . effortlessly blends the best elements of both literary and detective fiction. with measured plotting and a carefully constructed narrative (and a jungian dream machine!), Piglia adeptly uses his characters to reveal multiple perspectives - deftly playing their motivations and assumptions against one another." —Jeremy Garber, Powell's Books (Portland, OR)
"This isn’t a straightforward murder mystery though, and as the book progresses and more characters and intrigues are introduced, it transforms into a socio-political book loaded with dark family secrets and rivalries. . . . Piglia and Waisman’s prose is brilliant and captivating, as are the structural games that drive the plot forward." —Chad Post, The Scofield
“Everything I want detective novels to be but rarely are — paranoid, surreal, cynical, philosophical, metaphysical, but, above all, entertaining. Piglia’s world is a fully formed creation within a work that constantly peels back layers of complexity and intrigue, with a playfulness that’s perfectly rendered by translator Sergio Waisman.” —Justin Souther, Malaprop’s Bookstore (Asheville, NC)
Tony Durán was an adventurer and a professional gambler who saw his opportunity to win the big casino when he met the Belladona sisters. It was a ménage à trois that scandalized the town and stayed on everyone’s mind for months. He’d show up with one of the two sisters at the restaurant of the Plaza Hotel, but no one could ever tell with which because the twins were so alike that even their handwriting was indistinguishable. Tony was almost never seen with both at the same time; that was something he kept private. What really shocked everyone was the thought of the twins sleeping together. Not so much that they would share the same man, but that they would share each other.
Soon the rumors turned into stories and elaborate tales, and before long no one could talk about anything else. People went on about it throughout the day—in their homes, or at the Social Club, or at Madariaga’s Store and Tavern. Everyone had a detail to add, commenting as easily as if they were talking about the weather.
In that town, like in all the towns in the Province of Buenos Aires, more news was batted around in a single day than in any large city in a week. The difference between regional and national news was so vast that the residents could retain the illusion that they lived an interesting life. Durán had come to enrich that mythology, and his figure reached legendary heights long before the time of his death.
You could take Tony’s comings and goings through the town and draw a map from them. An outsider’s ramblings along the elevated sidewalks, his walks to the outskirts of the abandoned factory and the deserted fields. He deciphered the order and hierarchies of the place in short order. The dwellings and houses stand clearly divided according to the social level of the inhabitants. The territory seems to have been drawn by a snobbish cartographer. The wealthy live at the top of the hill, and in a circle of about eight blocks is the so-called historical center of town, which includes the square, the town hall, the church and the main street with the stores and the two-story houses. Finally, sloping down on the other side of the railroad tracks, are the poorer neighborhoods where over half of the darker-skinned population lives and dies.
Tony’s popularity and the envy he aroused among the men could have led to anything. But in the end his downfall was simply a matter of chance, which is what had brought him here in the first place. It was incredible to see such an elegant mulatto in that town full of Basques and Piedmontese gauchos, a man who spoke Spanish with a Caribbean accent but looked as if he came from the province of Corrientes or from Paraguay, a mysterious foreigner lost in a lost town in the middle of the pampas.