Forced to retire early by a double-hit of cancer, and mourning the loss of her husband, Cherie Magnus found herself increasingly unable to survive Los Angeles’ unsympathetic economy on her savings. Flitting to Mexico and then on to Buenos Aires, Argentina, Magnus took the brave decision to start a different kind of life.
INTOXICATING TANGO: My Years in Buenos Aires is the third of a trio of books exploring Magnus’ love of the South American dance, written in a “personal travel-diary” style, about events which took place 10-15 years ago. Having overcome some of the standard immigrant issues as she settled into her new life, Magnus indulges heavily in a culture that’s a far cry from what she’d become used to in LA. Punctuated by nights of passion–both in the dancing sense, and, occasionally, the more personal one–the result is a book that’s strongly insightful into a very specific culture. The tango club scene is a relentless feature of the book, and shines a light on the traditional role of men and women in a society that in many ways is still deeply traditional.
Magnus has to communicate her desire to dance with a man, for example, by a subtle series of looks and nods, one that ensures that both people agree, and eliminates the possibility of a public rejection. She dances daily, sometimes at a series of old-world venues, drawn into the physical closeness and the swirling passion of the moves. Argentinian men don’t come off very well, as every few pages there’s an incident of extreme misogyny–a pressuring approach to intimate relationships that comes with anything from fixing her apartment’s electricity to just being alone and outside. Everything is deeply sexualized, but, in Magnus’ eyes, that’s just the way the city is.
In between, the author flits over to France to spend time floating around the Mediterranean, crosses the border to renew her visas, and fights battles with unscrupulous landlords who hold disproportionate influence in a world where, as an outsider, she’s a bit of a soft target. The end result is at times enthralling, and at others a little too repetitive, especially in describing a procession of similar nights out in those traditional clubs that after a while become difficult to separate.
INTOXICATING TANGO, Cherie Magnus’ telling of her retirement years indulging in a love of Tango in Argentina is a brave travelogue, an enticing glance at a life well lived and a cultural exploration of a world that can be best understood by living it.
~James Hendicott for IndieReader