Por Juan Toledo

An unexpected consequence of the pandemic has been the many types of artistic collaborations in all forms and shapes. This book is not only one of those labours of Argentinian friendship but, above all, one that we want to invite all our readers to celebrate and buy

If such a thing as “the Argentinian soul” really exists, then I could happily say that friendship is its best manifestation. And I use the word happily because I have benefited enormously from that natural predisposition the Argentines have for true and long lasting friendship. Many of the things I certainly like about Latin America come from that country. I love its literature -and it is very telling that none of its great writers, and Argentina has a few, has ever received the Nobel Prize, its refined humor, its music, its risk taking cinema and also -and here it is more than appropriate to say it- its graphic artists.

6 to Tango is a collaborative game of three pairs of Argentine friends, all united by a common affinity: the penchant for parody as an anvil to shape the steel of the past year that was both difficult and unprecedented. A painter, a short story teller, two cartoonists and two poets have produced a book for all types of adults with some very memorable ingredients from children’s literature.

The Shakespearean tragedy depicting the love triangle of Ricardo Cinnalli’s gravitationally challenged characters is subverted by Sylvia Libedinsky’s humorous and ironic verses. It is the only text untranslated in the book. “This is a tragic story of the passions of three dwarves: the beautiful, talented Belfonso, his partner Malva, the dancing queen, and sexy Ricarda whom Belfonso lusted after”. Visually speaking it is very arresting and according to Cinalli himself the mainly motivation for writing a form of revenge. The verses are hand written in pencil and in a diary, whereas the dramatis personae painted by Cinalli can be seen dancing, resting, fornicating and finally Malva stabbing the two lovers. The action is all indoors and mostly in a red room lit by a simple light bulb as a way of intensifying their lust and Malva’s murderous passion. Apparently it was Cinalli who insisted on the book being in colour rather than in its original black and white. For that reason alone, we readers, should remain grateful. 

Kafka meets Antoine Saint Exupéry and a gluttonous little caterpillar in the somewhat reluctant and playful verses of Miguel Ardiles accompanied by the suggestive images of Piero Pierini. His poems are deceptively simple and it is very possible that Ardiles himself might not accept the admission that he is a poet. He actually says so in a poem called Second Opportunity 

given the time
involved in writing
and the quantity and length
of my poems
I write a about a word per week
That is less than a letter 
a day (knowing me
I am not surprised)
I would need to live 
another life like this one
to be a poet

What is gratifying about his reticence is that it is clothed with a very gentle and self deprecating humor as in Así como lo ven

just as you see it
I’ve had to dissect
a whole poem
to find the precise words
that go into this one. 

Pierini illustrations, perhaps mirroring the different approaches of Ardiles’ poetry or maybe he is just reacting to them because they vary from the monochromatic ones to others lush with colour; from figurative images reminiscent of Hollywood films like North by Northwest to abstract visual composition which would not be out of place in a cover of book of esoteric self-help. And similarly to Lybedinsky’s verses, Ardiles’ poems are also handwritten but in his case with a child-like type of calligraphy and without the use of capital letters which in more way than one reinforces his artistic reticence. 

The book closes with four stories, always surprising and unpredictable, by Mario Flecha illustrated by the versatile and prodigious pen of Oscar Grillo. In this case Grillo uses different techniques in a masterful and highly entertaining way which perfectly serves the laconic and humorous style of Flecha’s narrations where misunderstandings, wrong sentences and misinterpretations transform them, more often than not, in mini comedy of errors. The opening short story, The Trapeze Artist, has the improbable scenario of a circus acrobat getting drunk and testing his incredulous drinking companion to the theory that most people in the circus applaud out of disappointment from not witnessing failed pirouettes. Three of the stories take place in London and Grillo uses all types of collages to bring them to our eyes. One of those, previously published in this magazine –Juan Pilkings– deals with the still to be tested theory that what a man really needs to seduce any attractive English woman travelling in the tube is just some striking new men’s footwear. The other two remind us first of how foxes are very much part of London’s own prodigious fauna and then of those unexpected situations in which the only justifiable action for one to do is to rob tourist that come from the same country as us.

The only thing to add is that 6 to Tango is a colorful, heterodox and highly entertaining proof of the passion for friendship of six Argentines living in London. A friendship that in this case, it must be said, allows us to assume playful and unsuspected attitudes.

6 to Tango, Viperfish Edition, London, £20 The book can be bought here