The Little School Book Review
Review of The Little School by Alicia Partnoy.


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The Little School; Tales of Disappearance and Survival in Argentina
by Alicia Partnoy

"The Little School” is a sad look into what took place during Argentina’s Dirty War.  The author, Alicia Partnoy, is a survivor of one of the many concentration camps that held the 30,000 people who were perceived as dangerous to the government.  These people were taken from their homes, schools and streets without warning, without a trial, and without any notice to family and friends.  The government denied taking these people into captivity until after the Dirty War ended in the 1980's.  Many of these people were murdered.  Most were tortured.  A few were exiled.  10,000 of these people are among Argentina’s ‘disappeared’.  The disappeared are the men, women and children who were captured during the Dirty War, but never found again.  It is assumed that these people were killed, but there bodies have never been found and there are no records of their imprisonment.

The Little School Book Cover

The book is a collection of short stories that she writes to tell the story of the different prisoners she met while being held at the little school house.  What amazes me about this book is among all of the sadness she manages to tell stories that make you feel hope, love and happiness.

The book begins with a description of Alicia’s capture.  Those familiar with the Dirty War have heard similar stories describing people’s capture; an unexpected knock at the door, forced entry, a small struggle, and being taken away by unidentified people in unmarked cars or vans.  The book quickly switches from one short story to another, all tales from the little school house, but each having its own plot or purpose.  Some of the stories are of hope; the enjoyment from whispered conversations or the warmth of a denim jacket.  Other stories are so difficult to read I had to stop several times because my tears made it impossible to see the words.

Alicia has an amazing ability to create a vivid picture for the reader.  While reading the book, it was as if I was wearing a blindfold with a small gap at the bottom.  I could see her husband lying on the blood stained floor.  I heard the rain collecting in the buckets surrounding her cot.  I even tasted the imaginary coke she drank after being promised one for her Birthday.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the History of Argentina.  It is a realistic insight on the brutal disappearances of the Dirty War.  The details Alicia was able to pick up on during her imprisonment and remember later are astounding.  She can tell you how many guards were there at any time of the day.  She provided detailed descriptions of both the physical characteristics and the personalities of 10 to 15 different guards.  There is a detailed map of the concentration camp which includes how many cots were in each room of prisoners.  AND remember she was able to give all of the details after months spent blindfolded! 

She ends the book with as much information as possible about the fate of dozens of other prisoners held at the little school house.


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