Sagastizábal, Patricia 1953-
SAGASTIZÁBAL, Patricia 1953-
PERSONAL: Born December 31, 1953, in Buenos Aires, Argentina; daughter of Rodolfo Oliveri (a journalist) and Catalina Costavega (an agronomic engineer); married Leandro de Sagastizábal (a history professor and publisher), December 23, 1977; children: Francisco, Hernán. Ethnicity: Hispanic. Education: Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires (law).
ADDRESSES: Home—Buenos Aires, Argentina. Agent—Guillermo Schavelzon, Rodríguez Peña 2067, 3A, Buenos Aires, Argentina C1021ABQ.
CAREER: Lawyer and writer. Has also worked as an actress and theater director and as the coordinator of cultural and sports activities at a private university.
AWARDS, HONORS: Premio la Nación de Novela, Lanación (newspaper), 1999, for Un Secreto para Julia.
En Nombre de dios (title means "In the Name of God"), Editorial Sudamericana (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1997.
Un Secreto para Julia, Editorial Sudamericana (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1999, English translation by Asa Zatz published as A Secret for Julia,W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2001.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Estados mentales (novel) and La Cantante de tango (novel).
SIDELIGHTS: Patricia Sagastizábal is a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born in 1953, she personally witnessed the horrors and violence of a repressive government throughout her youth and into her adulthood. In a Los Angeles Times review of Sagastizábal's second novel, A Secret for Julia, Merle Rubin wrote about a time still fresh in the memories of most observers, both American and Argentinian: "Not all that long ago, in Argentina in the 1970s, people who criticized the government were summarily arrested, imprisoned, interrogated, tortured and, in many cases, killed. The mothers of those who had 'disappeared' held vigils, standing for hours in all kinds of weather holding signs and pictures of their children." Television news programs into the 1980s were full of the reality of repression.
Sagastizábal was trained as a lawyer but practiced only for a short time. In 1997, after working for several years at a private university, she published her first novel, En Nombre de dios ("In the Name of God"), the story of a Spanish Jesuit who is sent to the Americas at the beginning of the seventeenth century to convert the Indians. Antonio Ruiz eventually must decide whether to choose violence in order to defend his adopted land and its inhabitants, the Guarani Indians.
The first chapter of A Secret for Julia is full of intrigue: in a family-run restaurant in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London, a man is arrested by Interpol. It is reported—not by the police but in the stories that circulate about his arrest—that he is from Argentina. Using a narrator, Mercedes Beecham, the story reads like a personal diary, according to the publisher. Beecham lives in London with her teenage daughter Julia but still suffers from memories of the horrible past she endured in Argentina. Julia's major concern is finding out the identity of her father, information that her mother is reluctant to share with her. Rubin wrote, "The squeamish reader need not run for cover: Sagastizábal does not place undue emphasis on the grisly details of torture. But she does achieve a strong, almost visceral, effect through her powerful evocation of her heroine's thoughts and actions: her fear, her anger, her determination and her courage." Writing for Book, Beth Kephart observed, "Like a story whispered under the cover of night, [A Secret for Julia] is harrowing and compelling. This is a book of rare authenticity that will leave readers sympathetic to the loneliness of the exile." The book won Argentina's prestigious Premio La Nación de Novela in 1999. In addition to its publication in Argentina and the United States, the novel was also published in Spain, Israel, and Holland.
Sagastizábal told CA that, when she was a child, her grandfather used to tell "very detailed and thrilling tales about his work" as a militant of Argentina's Radical Party. "In a quiet tone, without even moving a muscle of his face," he would narrate accounts of horrifying atrocities committed on Argentina's frontier in the late nineteenth century. Seven-year-old Sagastizábal listened "with my eyes wide open, breathless, and fascinated. Therefore, the adventures that awoke my interest in fantasy were not only Robin Hood's or the fantastic fables of The Thousand and One Nights. Reality operated in me as an incentive because my understanding could not seize it, and I remained confused and full of unanswered questions. I wanted—I was such a dreamer—to solve the intrigues that were in every one of those mysterious situations."
An actress in her younger days, Sagastizábal is sometimes asked by friends why she no longer pursues that vocation. She disagrees, telling them: "When I write, I perform, because I get angry, I laugh, and I get dirty with my characters, and their wounds hurt me."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Book, September 2001, Beth Kephart, review of A Secret for Julia, p. 77.
Booklist, July 2001, Elsa Gaztambide, review of A Secret for Julia, p. 1983.
Library Journal, August 2001, Lawrence Olszewski, review of A Secret for Julia, p. 166.
Los Angeles Times, September 3, 2001, Merle Rubin, "Secret Skillfully Weaves Repression into a Fictional Tale of Courage," p. E-3.
Ms., October-November, 2001, Daisy Hernandez, review of A Secret for Julia, p. 69.