Pssst… we can write an original essay just for you. Any subject. Any type of essay. It is an act of public and permanent revenge against not just the individuals who imprisoned, tortured, and humiliated her but against all the perpetrators of the Dirty War in Argentina.

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Pssst… we can write an original essay just for you. Any subject. Any type of essay. It is an act of public and permanent revenge against not just the individuals who imprisoned, tortured, and humiliated her but against all the perpetrators of the Dirty War in Argentina.

Although the book cannot produce justice in a conventional way, in which the guilty people are charged, tried, convicted, sentenced, and justly imprisoned for their crimes, its publication ensures that the victims have not been forgotten. It also immortalizes the rampant injustice and brutality of the Dirty War. During the Dirty War, the governments of several Latin American countries, including Argentina, faced an ongoing insurgent threat from Marxist and similar radical guerrillas who engaged in terrorist activities.

In the process, they went too far. There are several aspects of the book that are clearly not an attempt to accurately and dispassionately describe what happened. She describes herself in the third person, creating emotional distance between herself and what was happening to her. She presents poetic descriptions of things that occurred during her captivity. She includes one of her poems about a rerouted stream, which was taken by her captors to be an allegorical reference to a guerrilla leader of some kind.

She also changes details about some of her fellow captives who survived, in order to ensure their own safety. She acknowledges the fact several times, and her acknowledgement gives her a great deal of space to expand on some details, recreate others, and conveniently ignore whatever she wishes to ignore, such as the identity of her fellow survivors.

The Little School has clear protagonists and antagonists. Alicia Partnoy establishes at the outset that she and the other captives are the protagonists. She describes herself as a student who engaged in volunteer social work, helping others with literacy programs and other initiatives to improve the lives of the poor.

She had a somewhat left-of-center perspective due in part to her work with the poor and their fond memories of Peron-era changes that benefited labor unions. Not one of the prisoners Partnoy describes has any questionable ties that might muddy the very dramatic distinction between the unjustly persecuted prisoners and their captors.

In reality, although Partnoy and her husband were not involved with terrorist activities, it is plausible that at least some of their associates might have been. She describes her warrantless arrest, her imprisonment for more than two years without any criminal charge or opportunity to defend herself, and the way she was treated during her imprisonment. She was forced to wear a blindfold constantly, deprived of food for eighteen hours a day, deprived of exercise, and frequently beaten.

She describes a scene of sexual humiliation where she was forced to stand naked, and she describes how one of her fellow prisoners, nicknamed Benja, was hung upside down and beaten.

Even if they had been, they are concrete examples of routine human rights violations. To this day, Partnoy does not know who ordered her arrest.

Nor does she know the perpetrators of the offenses she experienced during her imprisonment. The brief glimpses she got by peeking through a gap in her blindfold, and the names and personality details she was able to collect about the guards, were not enough to conclusively identify anybody. The detail she provides is not enough to justify an arrest or to obtain a conviction. Most dates and times are not precise because of the way one day blended into the next.

To protect the identities of her fellow victims, Partnoy uses pseudonyms and nicknames. Perhaps, also, his friends, peers, and family will read the description, wonder for a moment if it matches him, and love him a little less for it.

But the retaliatory aspect of justice, where retribution is visited upon the guilty, cannot be served. However another aspect of justice, in which society is protected from future abuses, is definitely available.

The Little School forces its reader to think about torture, not just from a theoretical or pragmatic perspective but in terms of its consequences.

The victims of the torture, even though they survive, cannot always move beyond their experiences. How, exactly, can a person be expected to take the bus to work, or walk down the street, or shop for groceries without wondering if this half-remembered voice or that dimly recalled footstep belonged to one of her captors who recognizes her? It validates the experience of the other survivors by providing proof that their experiences were not imaginary or in any way deserved. It provides needed information to comfort the families of at least some of the victims.

It publicly refutes the official proclamation, quoted at the start of the book, that accusations of state sponsored kidnapping, torture, and murder are categorically false. But most of all, the book is an act of retaliation. Even if a similar coup occurred in Argentina again, the word is out and the world is now watching carefully. The political climate that allowed the Dirty War to pass unremarked and without international response has changed.

The old proverb about revenge being a dish best served cold definitely applies to the publication of The Little School. Also, the accusations are permanent.

Instead of allowing the conversation to revolve around whether the victims can prove something happened, Partnoy challenges the now-defunct regime and the individuals who supported it to prove that it did not. Greenwood Publishing Group, p. Cleis Press, , p. Your time is important.


Little School: Tales of Disappearance and Survival

Her writings were smuggled out of prison and published anonymously in human rights journals. Told in a series of tales that resound in memory like parables, The Little School is proof of the resilience of the human spirit and the healing powers of art. This second edition features a revised introduction by the author and a preface by Julia Alvarez. Read more Collapse About the author Alicia Partnoy has presented testimony on human rights violations to the United Nations, the Organization of American States, Amnesty International, and human rights organizations in Argentina.


Alicia Partnoy



Gotcha Last: Context and Analysis of “The Little School” by Alicia Partnoy


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