In a series of guest Op-Ed columns for the New York Times, Marie explores a number of timely issues in Latin America, from poverty to
“Erotic, catastrophic . . . Arana’s novel of taboo passion, tragic misperception, and life’s hidden dimensions is as shattering as it is seductive.”
A man and a woman meet in a seedy tango bar in Lima. She is poor, indigenous, beautiful, and far too young to be there; he is white, middle-aged, bored, and formerly very rich. As she lures him onto the floor for a tango, he cannot know that the dance will take him through equal portions of love, suffering, and betrayal that will last for twenty years. The story of Carlos and Maria is the age-old tale of forbidden love, but in Arana’s hands it is a spare and powerful instrument that takes on profound questions of racism, faith, and the hidden recesses of the human heart.
Carlos Bluhm leads the good life in upper-class Lima: He attends social functions with his elegant wife, goes out drinking with his three best friends, and has the occasional, fleeting assignation. Then he meets María Fernandez, a dancer at a tango bar in a rough part of town. The beautiful fifteen-year-old intoxicates him. An indigenous dark-skinned Peruvian, she represents everything his safe white world does not, and soon he can’t get her out of his mind. They begin a passionate affair, one that will destroy his marriage and shatter the only reality he’s ever known.
Flash forward twenty years: Against all odds, Carlos and María have remained together. But when María finally presses for a formal commitment, feelings long suppressed erupt in a tense endgame that sends both of them hurtling toward a dangerous resolution that will forever alter their lives.
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
Dial Press. Hardcover, 2009. ISBN 978-0-385-34258-2 • Paperback, 2010. ISBN 978-0-385-34259-9