“The Other War”, by Leila Guerriero: naming the dead of the Falklands

In Darwin War Cemetery in the Falklands in 2018.

“The Other War. A History of the Argentine Cemetery in the Falklands”, followed by “The Trace on the Bones” (La otra guerra), by Leila Guerriero, translated from Spanish (Argentina) by Maïra Muchnik, Rivages, 192 p., €19, digital €14.

In the aftermath of the Falklands War, which pitted Argentina against the United Kingdom between April and June 1982, there remained hundreds of bodies of Argentine soldiers scattered on this disputed archipelago in the South Atlantic, administered by London since 1833, under the name of Falkland Islands. The British army, victorious, mandated one of its own, Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo, to identify them. He counted 246 of them (out of 649 dead), identified almost half of them, and had them all buried in a place created for them: the Darwin cemetery. But their families only learned of it in 2008. Margaret Thatcher’s government had transmitted the report drawn up by Cardozo to the Argentine executive after the fall of the military dictatorship in 1983, but the latter had put it in a drawer. It remained there for decades. Too bad for the relatives of the deceased, who, in the absence of official announcement of the death of the latter, continued to wait for their return for a long time.

It is on this terrible incongruity that Leila Guerriero returns in The Other War. After The Suicides of the End of the World (Rivages, 2021), a flagship investigation into a wave of suicides in Patagonia, the great pen of Latin American narrative journalism is once again looking at the wounds, still raw, that stab his country.

The idea of ​​this long investigation, first published (in a shorter version) by the Spanish daily El País in 2020, Leila Guerriero had it during her exchanges with the members of the Argentinian Team of Forensic Anthropology, who worked in 2007 to identify the bodies of victims of the dictatorship. This work gave rise to a romantic investigation (The Trace on the Bones) which also appears in the French edition of The Other War.

“Uncomfortable” situation

Ten years later, after the signing of an agreement between Argentina and the United Kingdom, these same experts are responsible for carrying out DNA analyzes on the hundred or so bodies that have remained anonymous in the Darwin cemetery. But Leila Guerriero discovers that many families object to the identification of their loved ones. “At first I had a hard time understandingshe tells the “World of Books”. All the organizations clashed. All had conflicting interests. When we imagine relatives of soldiers who have fallen during a war, we naturally imagine that they would like to know where they are buried. How could they oppose it? » Always attracted by this type of situation “uncomfortable”the author decides to write on the subject.

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