America seems to take an almost chauvinistic approach to literature, displaying little or no interest in works originally written in another language and then translated into English. The potential disconnect with Malvinas Requiem will probably start with the title. Regardless, those who have called it Argentina's Catch-22 just may be justified in doing so.
The Falklands War may ring a bell with most Americans. Very few, though, probably know that in Spanish, Argentina's official language, the Falkland Islands were las Malvinas. Thus, from the outset the book reflects the perspective Rodolfo Fogwill takes on the conflict — the viewpoint of about two dozen deserters from the Argentinian army who are hiding out underground.
With the focus on characters hiding underground and generally emerging only at night, the book was titled Los Pichiciegos when first published in Argentina. Pichiciegos is a small armadillo native to central Argentina that is considered an endangered species. Accordingly, the novel called the men in the hideout "pichis." While the title changed in the English version, the translation remains true to the original as it refers to them as "dillos." (Although the book could have been helped provide greater context with notes or other explanatory material for items related to Argentina's history with which many English-speaking readers may be unfamiliar.)
Life as a "dillo" is far from exciting. Most of the time is spent sleeping, smoking, talking or just thinking. The boredom is outweighed only by the ramifications of leaving their shelter, something only a few designated ones do at night to gather supplies and even trade with nearby British soldiers. Fogwill helps reflect the feeling by there being little sense in conversations of who among the men is saying what. At times, the reader might even wonder which of the various characters is actually the narrator.
Malvinas Requiem also expresses the attitude and at times dry humor of the soldiers toward the war itself. On the first sunny day in three weeks, one decides that, as far as he is concerned, the British could keep the islands. "You had to be British, or like the British, to want to come and freeze your arse off here, when over there lay Argentina, so fine and wide and with the sun shining down on it."