The Story of the Night – Colm Tóibín

TSOTNOur group thought this was a very extraordinary novel, brilliantly written with a translucent style of writing. It has a dispassionate quality, a bit like Primo Levi.

The main character is a disposable person who reinvents himself after his mother’s death. He sells his soul and gets manipulated; an outsider eager to please.

It’s the story of all sorts of nights; nights of passion and nights in which there is torture and people are ‘disappeared’. A sensed of claustrophobia and menace always lurk.

The Argentina of the period has a transport system which is wasteful, a porter never answers the phone, and the Falklands diverts people away from corruption into ‘a new toy called the war’. Mrs. Thatcher has ‘something ferocious implacable about her.’

The sexuality is furtive: people can take mart in wanking games but they are not ‘queer’. The sauna scene is accurate and could have taken place in just the same way anywhere over the world.

The book starts with ‘normal’ live: business and then gradually moves into sex, then AIDs. “When I meet an AIDs doctor who is rude, I’ll know that this disease is over”

One depiction of night: Later, we got a taxi to a gay bar for older, professional men, as Tom put it. Are you a professional man, he asked me. I said that I was. He laughed. Most of the men there wore suits and ties. The place was full of easy chairs and sofas, and the atmosphere was cheerful. We had several drinks. Tom knew a few people, whom he introduced to me, and we all talked for a while, about Argentina and New York, making vague jokes about sex. It seemed as though these men were tired of hunting for sex on a Saturday night and decided instead to look for company, mild conversation and some laughter. But maybe at a certain time of the night they stiffened and stopped standing around with drinks in their hands talking to people they knew, and they went in search of sex

Update: BBC3’s ‘Generation Sex: Secrets of South America’ on 12/2/14 showed a vibrant LGBT culture following the oppression. Burt the Roman Catholic Church still held sway on abortion and contraception while LG marriages are now legal.

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