Review of the book “Heart of Tango”

untitledAuthor of the review: Małgorzata Halaba.

Buenos Aires, the twenties of the last century. Natalia is nineteen; she lives with her father in La Boca, takes care of the household and spends her free time with friends learning how to dance the tango. She dreams that maybe, one day, she will be able to dance with a man. At the same time, her wedding day approaches – she is to marry El Rojo, much older immigrant from Germany. Natalia has no idea whether she loves this red-haired giant, but a respectable girl has to get married, right? And love? Well, surely it cannot be more but fiction, an invention of sentimental novelists. And El Rojo is a good man. But fate decides to play a cruel trick here – on her wedding’s eve Natalia meets Diego – although “meets” is an exaggeration – and she instantly knows: novelists were right about this strange thing called love. Diego is a tango dancer and, by sheer coincidence, has a chance to dance with Natalia at her wedding. This one tanda is enough to make them both realize that they are meant for each other, albeit this is not to happen.  They will re-emerge many years after – in another place, in another time, at another milonga. Only their tango will remain the same.

Heart of Tango is a beautiful, sad novel full of love and magic. But first of all, this is the story about the tango and what it could be in someone’s life: a passport to a better word, never ending dream and love, but also despair, longing and death. Also, Barceló wonderfully captures vibrant Buenos Aires of the beginning of the last century – this Mecca of immigrants from all over the world who had come there in search of their destiny. 

And last but not least – Heart of Tango contains probably the most beautiful description of the perfect connection in a dance:  “She became a silk handkerchief against my body, a flame enveloping me, a wise flame that understood my movements and burned me a little bit with every step, with every turn. Our breathing grew laboured and I let myself be led into a dark, smooth tunnel from which I could never emerge”.

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