by Josephine Condemi
A fall which turns into a flight and a flight which turns into a fall: De Robertis’ novel lives on this vertical shift, sky/ground and on the contrary, mostly in an allegorical way.
It’s not by chance that the original title of the novel is “The Invisible Mountain”, and it’s not by chance as well that one of the two quotations opening the book comes from Dante’s “Inferno”.
“La bambina nata due volte”(that is, “The girl who was born twice”), is, most obviously, Pajarita, or “little bird”, born in Uruguay in 1989, disappeared after a week and magically reappeared on a tree some months later, in 1900. But “girls who are born twice” will also include Pajarita’s daughter, Eva, and Pajarita’s granddaughter, Salomé. In fact, all these three characters will climb their “invisible mountain” in order to be born again.
And it’s not by chance that at the centre of the novel we find Montevideo. “Monte-vide-eu”. “I see a mountain”, the Portuguese sailor said when he sighted the land that would become Uruguay. “Monte-vide-eu” was “El cerro”, a little bit higher than a hill, so, this too is, an “invisible mountain”.
The charm of De Robertis’ novel is actually due to the author’s ability to let stories connect with history, the history of an unknown and mysterious country such as Uruguay.
A country with a bulky neighbour: Argentina, a sort of “alter ego” to imitate or to be detached from. A restless country, looking for something, which reflects the main characters’ feelings, in keeping with the best novelistic tradition.
“La bambina nata due volte” (or, if you prefer, “The invisible mountain”), is one of the best epic poems of recent years. A tapestry whose lines are strongly kept in the author’s hands from beginning to end, giving the novel an epic character thanks to the wide range of historical ages. Ages painted now by the dark, now by the light colors of Great History.