Rage (Rabia) by Sergio Bizzio

Rage is another attempt of mine to read more literature that isn’t American or British and focusing more on the box of post-it notes that constitutes my personal reading list. It’s always amazing to see how much literature has been translated into German and even the tiny small-town library I visit when I stay with my parents offers enough world lit to seduce me away from my stacks of unread books at home.

Rabia was first published in Argentina in 2004 and has been translated into English as Rage. It is Bizzio’s 6th novel and has been adapted to film. The book earned Bizzio the Premio Internacional de Novela de la Diversidad and the Premio La Mar de Letras awards.

Bizzio tells the story of José María, a construction worker, who falls in love with Rosa, maid in a Buenos Aires mansion. However, when María kills the foreman after being provoked and let go, he hides for years on the upper floor of the mansion, observing Rosa and her employers without anyone noticing they’ve acquired a squatter.

While the premise seems to promise a suspenseful thriller, quickly read and forgotten, Bizzio manages to make it so much more. Once María hides in the mansion, the book is narrated from his claustrophobic, confined perspective but never is there not emotional depth to his character. I especially appreciated the pages Bizzio devoted to describing María’s behavior during the first days in the mansion, how he took care not to leave traces in the empty room he slept in or the bathroom, how he stole food from the kitchen in the middle of the night, always considering if something would be missed or not. And the terrifying moments when he thinks he might have been seen. His sneaking around the house is suitably creepy and reminded me of an episode of Whitechapel, which also focused on a squatter none of the residents know about. But while María is a voyeur and his obsession with Rosa is disturbing, Bizzio made me sympathetic to his plight and the way his self-imprisonment changes him.

Also, with a construction worker observing a well-to-do family, commentary on class issues and the state of Argentinean society is always present. Rosa is over-worked and underpaid and even worse is raped by her employers’ son, the teenaged grandson also lusts after her and of course she is always, unknowingly observed by a possessive, jealous María. From what I’ve heard, the difficult situation of maids in Argentina has received more attention in recent years, and I’d like to read another perspective, which does more to expose the sexual objectification and male gaze, as Rage simultaneously exposes and perpetuates this.

The book has been hailed as the best of contemporary Argentinean literature, which makes me want to explore more. Read this one for an atmospheric Kammerspiel, Bizzio’s amazing imagery and sparse language.

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

8 thoughts on “Rage (Rabia) by Sergio Bizzio

  1. Beautiful review, Bina! Have you been missing your reviews a lot. Nice to see you back 🙂 I don’t think I have read a book by an Argentinean writer, though I have an unread book by Jorge Luis Borges. But I saw a movie called ‘Tetro’ (directed by Francis Ford Coppola) recently and I fell in love with Argentina. I will add this book to my ‘TBR’ list. It looks quite beautiful from your review. I am intrigued at what happens in the end – does Maria end up being a squatter or is he able to get back together with Rosa again?

      1. Thanks, Vishy! Haven’t read a lot of Borges but loved it, so hope you will, too. Oh yes the ending is interesting, but of course I won’t tell, spoilers! 🙂
        Haha, I’m still thinking about 2666, but will definitely post a review even if it takes a while. But it was so much easier to read than I expected.

    1. Definitely give it a go, it’s well-worth it! He is quite single-minded in his obsession and oh so creepy, I love that he is somehow still likeable.

  2. The title suggests that Jose Maria will not remain a silent voyeur forever, especially if he’s so obsessed with Rosa and notices all the terrible things happening in the house below. Just reading your review makes my throat grow tighter and goosebumps appear on my arms. I never knew about maids being treated so dismally in Argentina, but then again, I really need to read more Argentinian literature. Any suggestions, besides Rage?

    1. Oh it is really chilling on parts but possibly the ending is not what one would expect. Hope you get to read and enjoy it!
      Embarrassingly I haven’t read any Argentinean lit except for Borges and now this one.But if I stumble upon another Argentinean author I’ll let you know 🙂

  3. Great review, this sounds like a really chilling book as you say and also really interesting. Am adding it to my list! The only Argentinian book I’ve read that I can think of is My Name Is Light by Elsa Osorio which also explored deep topics. This must be a sign that I should search out more from there, starting with this one!

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