Posts Tagged ‘Carolina de Robertis’

‘Cantoras’ by Carolina de Robertis – Five Women Around a Campfire


‘Cantoras’ by Carolina de Robertis   (2019) –  317 pages

The small country of Uruguay was supposed to be immune from collapsing into a dictatorship. It was supposed to be a tiny oasis of calm. The country prided itself on being a progressive democracy, a role model. However on June 27, 1973 it fell into the throes of a severely repressive military dictatorship. Citizens were arrested and disappeared for no reason. Many of these were tortured and/or murdered it was found out later. Large numbers of people left the country, escaped as exiles. Not until 1984 was Uruguay returned to civilian rule.

‘Cantoras’ is the story of that appalling time in Uruguay told from the perspective of five women who had thought they had found refuge on a remote beach on the Atlantic Ocean. These women all have a special reason to be concerned about the alarming events in their country because they are women who are attracted to other women. They call themselves “Cantoras” which is the Portuguese word for female singers or songstresses.

There was no future for women in this godforsaken country, must less for women like her.”

We readers are there when one or more of these women fall in love or fall apart or bring in another woman from outside the group.

She had never seduced a woman who was so much older than her before; the thrill of it helped her survive the terror of her days. She was only seventeen years old but she’d been watching men for a long time, the way they acted as if they knew the answers to questions before they were asked, as if they carried the answers in their mouths and trousers.”

We are there when one of this female group is arrested.

There she was, a prisoner flanked by soldiers in plain clothes, and yet she looked as free and normal as anyone else. The essence of dictatorship, she thought. On the bus, on the street, at home; no matter where you are or how ordinary you seem, you’re in a cage.”

I have previously read the novel ‘Perla’ by Carolina de Robertis which is also about the military dictatorship in Uruguay. After reading ‘Perla’ I was already sure that I had discovered a new major world-class novelist in Carolina de Robertis, and ‘Cantoras’ reinforces that view. ‘Cantoras’ is a moving blend of the political and the personal, how these women start, continue, and end their romantic relationships under difficult conditions.

…at twenty-eight, she would never know how much of who she was was deformed by dictatorship, like a plant twisting its shape to find light. That so much had been lost or broken.”

We do not realize how important freedom is to living our lives until it disappears. The significance of living freely and the destruction of lives caused by the loss of freedom are conditions too many South Americans know all too well.

We don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. Freedom is like that. It’s like air. When you have it, you don’t notice it.” – Boris Yeltsin


Grade :    A-



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