A remarkable rich work with surprises and satisfactions for a wide array of readers, whether tango enthusiasts or not. A thumbnail history of Argentina enriched with archival photos and citing new scholarship presents a vivid portrait of vitality and progressive social ferment from the nineteenth century to present. There emerges an urban amalgam of the displaced, both internal and external–gauchos, immigrants, activists, anarchists–that becomes the nascent tango community of exiles joined by bonds of nostalgia and longing for connection, seeking refuge in a unique culture of social dance, music and poetry.
Beatriz Dujovne, a tango enthusiast and psychoanalyst, indeed reminds us of Dante’s Beatrice as she guides the reader into a memory palace of tango, a rich trove of recovered, unearthed and collected memories both personal and national fixed to physical places and events. She also uncovers a doorway into her own past via tango that in its enchantment and surprise brings to mind Marcel Proust’s expeditions into the awakening of lost memory.
This book is several strands of narrative: the universal adventure of a voyage of personal discovery, a detailed atlas of a city, neighborhoods and cafes and dance venues, reports from numerous dancers of their subjective experience of entering the embrace of tango in strangers’ arms.
A chapter is devoted to tango song lyrics, music and personalities, enhanced by an excellent bibliography of written, recorded and video references. Experienced tango enthusiasts will be drawn to accounts of what fellow dancers experience in the dance as well as the dense resources of lyrics, music and tango lore. General readers will relish a stolen glimpse of a rich exotic world and come away with a vivid impression of what this tango world is.
In later pages a single story emerges about the discovery and reclaiming of a lost hero of tango music performance found still living and vital. Restoring this legendary figure to the welcoming embrace of the global tango community is a charming and heartwarming conclusion that illustrates exquisitely the power of tango culture to enliven and nurture its participants.