A glittering, energetic novel about three women-each experiencing an awakening in the gloriously conflicted and sexy city of Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires is a city of Parisian affections and national anxiety, of amorous young lovers, seedy ports, flooded slums, and a dazzling social elite. Into this heady maze of contradiction and possibility enter two women: Daisy, an American divorcée; and Isolde, a beautiful, lonely Austrian. In Buenos Aires, Isolde finds that her blond European looks afford her entrée to the kind of elite, alluring social world she never would have had access to in her home country, but her ascension also sets her up for a long, surprising fall. Meanwhile, Daisy joins forces with Leonarda, a chameleonic Argentine with radical dreams of rebellion, who transfixes Daisy with her wild effervescence. Soon, Daisy is throwing off her American earnestness and engaging in a degree of passion, manipulation, and risk-taking in a way she never has before. Buenos Aires has allowed her to become someone else.
Against the throbbing backdrop of this shimmering and decadent city- almost a character in itself-Maxine Swann has created a stunning narrative of reawakened sensuality and compulsive desire that simultaneously explores with remarkable acuity themes of foreignness, displacement, and the trembling metamorphoses that arise from such states. From the award-winning, critically celebrated author of Flower Children, The Foreigners is a startlingly bold and original, unforgettable next novel.
The amount of pollen that comes in on travelers’ sleeves is vastly disproportionate to the number of species that hold. However, once an invasive species takes root, it can become voracious. An apparently innocent figure can topple whole ecosystems. Consider, for example, the rosy wolf snail of the southeastern United States. Or the case of the Iris pseudacorus currently taking over the Argentine wetlands, threatening to annihilate the habitat of the Curve-billed Reedhaunter and the Asian privet.
The foreigners in Buenos Aires come, searching as they always were, for a kind of utopia, though the definition of “utopia” varies. They fall into categories. There are the South American neighbors, Bolivians, Paraguayans, Peruvians, who come to work as maids, construction and agricultural workers and send the money home. The Belarusians come because there is an accord with their country, still now, papers delivered unquestionably. There are, apparently— it has not only been rumored but confirmed—whole communities of Africans. They are being taught the language so as to insert themselves. But where they are inserted remains a mystery. They are never seen. A black-skinned person on the street is an anomaly. Everyone, however furtively, turns and stares.
Then there is the other type of foreigner, coming out of curiosity, for a lark, backpackers, tango dancers, often the lark-seeking obscuring deeper, more complicated, half-conscious reasons, escape from overdetermined social trajectories, troubled families, marriages or lack of prospects. This group, in turn, bifurcates. The tango dancers conglomerate among themselves, into bigger and bigger masses. Friendships are light, turnover expected. The tango life is exigent, starting at two, three in the morning. You’re out until dawn, sleep through the mornings, then pick up some odd jobs in the late afternoon hours until the night begins again. In general, this crowd isn’t picky, nor that interested in money. Their lives are centered around one goal.
The motives of the other group are more complex. They arrive, Europeans, in the new world. “I’ve discovered the continent inhabited by more peoples and animals than our Europe or Asia or Africa itself, and I’ve found that the air here is more temperate and sweet than in any other part of the world we know,” wrote Vespuccio in 1507. “I hereby name it Mundus Novus.” The new world today seems to hold all the promise it ever did, exotic fauna and flora, potential for exploitation. Like the Belarusians and the Asians, these foreigners are taking their chances, only in a different tier and what they’re after is more fleeting—glamour, big wealth, upper-class status, things they can’t find at home, because they don’t make the grade. But in Argentina it’s different. No matter what their origins, by virtue of being European or American, as long as they’re basically decently physically assembled, they’re immediately endowed with a certain sheen, upper class unless proven otherwise, instead of the reverse. In the case of ugliness, of course, as always, other strategies must be sought. They learn to speak Spanish sufferingly well, with smatterings of other languages slipped in—among upper-class Argentines this is par for the course.
Though the potential for circulation is one of the great virtues of Buenos Aires, revolving city events, everyone goes, this particular group is interested in exclusivity. While at the end of the nineteenth century the places to be seen among the Argentine aristocracy were balls, dog walks, church masses, and above all the promenades of Palermo—on Thursdays and Sunday afternoons, four lines of cars would drive back and forth along the three blocks of what is now Sarmiento Avenue—and then later in the 1920s, the river islands of Tigre, where significant yachts would cross each other on the tranquil muddy waters, now the viewing places, as this particular breed of foreigner soon assesses, are museum openings, opera galas and cocktail parties. They can soon be seen at all the requisite events, typing contacts into their shiny cell phones.
For all its supposed glamour, the milieu ages you. Even the younger women look older than they are. The foreigners, starry-eyed, don’t realize this yet. They still can’t get over having maids. They marvel secretly to themselves that they would ever have a maid, someone to fold and arrange their clothes, they who grew up the way they did, although here too there’s a cultural conundrum— every basic middle-class Argentine household has a maid. But they soon not only behave as if, but begin to feel that, they could never live without one. Still, their two main concerns are the concerns of most of us, commerce and love.
s for me, I arrived in Buenos Aires in 2002 in a peculiar state.
I was thirty-five. My marriage of nine years had dissolved the year before. Around the same time, I’d switched jobs. My husband had been a theater director. When I met him, I’d started working in stage design, but I now found myself disenchanted with that world. We lived in Seattle, where I had grown up. While looking around for a different line of work, I signed on as the assistant to a botanist I met at a dinner party, as an intermediate step. Still, I had yet to get my bearings. It wasn’t that I’d been happy or unhappy with my husband. But the devotion I’d felt for him had been entirely absorbing.
My parents, divorced themselves, however amicably, were concerned. My father, a lawyer, had friends of his take care of my divorce paperwork. My mother, a social worker, suggested counseling. I did go to see a counselor; our conversations were interesting, yet they did nothing to prevent that in January of the year following my separation, I started fainting inexplicably. It would begin in my ears, sounds seeming to come from far away, then my vision would go into high-contrast mode, the brights blinding and the darks almost invisible for being so black. Once I had fainted a few times, and I knew what these signals meant, I could sometimes lie down in time to keep myself from going under. When I did pass out, it would seem like an eternity. Sometimes, I would shake as if I was going into convulsions or pee myself. One day, it happened on the street in Seattle. The next thing I knew I was down on the pavement throwing up like crazy, surrounded by firemen and paramedics. That time, I had gone so far under, I really felt that I had died and I heard this drumbeat filling my head getting slower and slower (the nurse said later that it was my heart), until everything came rushing back again with ice-cold liquid filling my veins from the IVs they’d stuck in me (it was winter and the stuff was cold from being in the ambulance). I was a mess, covered in vomit, pee and poo everywhere, but I actually felt exhilarated when I woke up. Riding in the ambulance to the hospital, I remembered being in Spain as a college student and imagined myself as one of those huge religious sculptures they carry in processions.
They kept me in the hospital for almost a week and did a million tests, blood tests and epilepsy tests, tests of my heart, an MRI of my brain, another test where they attached electrical probes to my head and sent shocks to different parts of my body. But it was finally concluded from the tests and repeated tests that there was nothing organically wrong with me. The head doctor came into my room one day on the neurology ward to report this and say that they could find no further justification for keeping me there.
Later that afternoon, following a visit from my mother, my friend Brian stopped by.
“You know what you should do?” he said, after hearing the news. “Take a trip.”
“A trip?” I asked, vaguely surprised. I had traveled with my husband to Portugal, Morocco and Greece but, apart from that semester in college when I’d lived in Barcelona, I’d never gone anywhere on my own.
“Yeah, anywhere. Just go somewhere. I know,” he said. “I’m on this board now. I can arrange for you to get a grant. But it would have to be in urban studies.” That was his field.
“Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter if you do it. The point is to get you some money to go somewhere. Let’s see. You speak Spanish, right? Yeah, I think I can work it out.”
This was how I found myself one month later in the airport on my way to Buenos Aires with a grant to study the public waterworks of the city. They say that every hospitalization is a journey. They also say that when people enter the hospital, they leave part of themselves outside. Maybe the conjunction of these two elements explains the estrangement you feel on leaving. Part of you has taken a journey, of which the other part is ignorant. Part of you returns, reencounters the part you left outside. The two of you do what you can to proceed. It was in this state of estrangement that I set out.
My stint in the hospital had made it clear how little is actually known by doctors, by ourselves, about the human condition. “We’re all tapping along in the dark,” as one neurologist who examined me put it. In the airport, waiting for my plane to board, I was leafing through a magazine when I glanced up and caught a glimpse of what looked like the head doctor from the hospital. He was standing in profile, about ten yards away. Then he turned and approached the set of seats where I was. Now I could see, it was definitely him. He was small, with green eyes set somewhat close. I had never seen him out of his hospital gown. I immediately had the reflex to hide, as if I was doing something wrong, as if, if he saw me, I’d be forbidden to leave. While before I’d felt somewhat baffled by my actions, suddenly it seemed quite imperative that I leave. I ducked out of sight, put on some new sunglasses I’d bought whose lenses were especially, even too, dark. The trip took on an air of the forbidden. Although I hadn’t been aware of it until this moment, I seemed to be living it as a renegade expedition.
My first days in Buenos Aires were sufficiently disorienting to absorb my full attention. It was April, autumn, and the city seemed to have a lugubrious air. All the stereotypical melancholic idea was there, pervasive, stinking like the waters in the La Boca zone, and this even more so because of the recent economic crash. My own financial situation was steady for the moment—along with the grant money, I had some savings, and since the peso had been devalued, everything was cheap. I was staying in the house of a woman in her late sixties named Cecilia until I got my bearings, also an arrangement made by Brian.
The apartment was on the second floor and, as I would later learn, like all middle- and upper-class Buenos Aires apartments, had a balcony with plants. Outside on the street, the very loud buses went by. The plants fluttered. The tiny china plates on gold hooks on the walls quivered. The polished dining room table was never used. On the sideboard was a large crystal liquor container surrounded by crystal glasses. The furniture, Cecilia liked to say, was French. The upholstered couches and chairs, salmon pink, were covered in plastic so as not to get stained by people who never came. When you sat there in warm weather, the plastic stuck to your legs. There were life-size portrait photographs of Cecilia’s two children receiving communion. The rooms were kept ready, waiting for the children, someone, but no one ever came.
In the meantime, Cecilia, like many others, had had all access to her savings blocked by the recent bank debacle. The money was floating in some unidentified place, who knew if ever to be seen again, which meant that she either had to sell her apartment and move to a smaller, humbler place or go out and get a job. The only thing she had was her apartment. She had decided to get a job and worked now in a travel agency, long hours, five days a week.
It seemed to me that there was in this woman’s life a shadowy flickering of my own, hopes suspended, though her case, of course, was more extreme. Still the resemblance would sometimes make me feel that I was drowning and I’d wake up in the night in an appalling state, feverish, with the sensation that a substance was flooding my lungs. Lying there, I’d picture the streets of Buenos Aires flooded with dark water, up, up over my head. I’d see Cecilia trying to make her way home from work, battling against the current, now well past her thighs. Another time, on waking, I had the distinct impression that a being was holding me from behind, a sort of fiend, clutching me tight, which later struck me as an almost miraculous embodiment of some allegorical idea of death. The life-size photographic figures of the absent children would dance before my eyes. Or else I’d dream of crowds.
An aspect of the city, especially prevalent at the moment, was protesting crowds. They could be found on any given day. All you had to do was step out into the street and listen. They were often around the Pink House, the residence of the president, but would also move through the streets. I found myself gravitating toward them. People would be milling around in one location, sometimes banging pots and pans. Occasionally the crowd would erupt, the police arriving, everyone running. But it was strange because, while for me the crowds during the day offered solace—I would find myself drawn toward them and enclosed there—in my nightmare visions, they did not. The crowds in my mind took the form of insects, reptilian animals, they were crawling over me, invading my bed, or simply a repeated pattern, of light, squirmy shapes, seething, retreating, coming forward again.
Apart from these visions, there was nothing particularly notable about my loneliness, or rather it was all that there was, all that was there. Go back? That was not an option either. Utopia has been defined for many as not what you go toward but what you get away from, utopia because it’s not the old life. No matter what it offered, Buenos Aires was in that sense utopia for me.
I did have enough lucidity to realize that my living situation was degrading my outlook. Cecilia, despite her dire straits, refused to accept any payment for the room I was using. This, combined with the bizarre visions the apartment was provoking in my mind, led me to set about looking for a place. From the newspaper I contacted a real estate agency and was assigned to an agent named Olga.
Olga was Bolivian and had a face that looked like it had been carved onto a coin, large olive-colored eyes with visible lids, a straight nose, her long light brown hair tinged with gold pulled back in a ponytail tight from her face. She took me around in taxis, was quick and efficient and her English was good.
“Argentines say this is the widest avenue in the world,” Olga said as we crossed the 9 de Julio. “But Argentines say a lot of things, like that they invented the artificial heart.”
The taxi driver turned and said something to her. She shot back a long line of heated invectives that I couldn’t catch.
“See,” she said, “he hears my accent and thinks because I’m Bolivian he can say anything to me. They’re all like that.”
“Argentines. They think they’re better than the rest of us.”
The taxi driver laughed, enjoying her spitfire behavior.
As we drove around, she told me that she was married but didn’t live with her husband anymore, though they almost always had dinner together. “No, no,” she said, “he’s not someone you live with.” She had a son, twenty years old now. She was a businesswoman. That was her identity and she was proud of it. “My son always gives me presents for a businesswoman, pens, leather cases.”
I liked Olga but one after another of the apartments she took me to gave me an appalling sense of suffocation. They were fluffy white boxes of varying sizes, all in the central area, Barrio Norte and downtown. Even the apartments with more than one room felt close and small, the appliances brand new, the floorboards painted.
Our search went on for a week or so.
“There’s a last apartment if you actually want to see it,” Olga said one day. “I don’t like the place at all. I hate old buildings. I hate everything old. I want everything to be new, new, new.”
We crossed the 9 de Julio again and stopped in front of a building with a large door, incongruous with all the doors around, on Carlos Pellegrini Street.
“I don’t like this place,” Olga said again as we stepped inside, both pressing open the heavy door.
There was a wide passageway with a tiled floor. The far wall didn’t go all the way up to the ceiling, leaving an open-air space. Later, I saw that the hallways on all the floors were like this, partly open to the air. Flowers and leaves would fall inside. It would rain on the floor.
“This place is abandoned,” Olga said. “I never see anyone here.”
We walked up the wide dim staircase to the second floor. The door of the apartment resisted, as if it hadn’t been opened for a while. Inside, the place had a kept, cut-off air. It was silent. Vines lined the windows outside. There was a chaise lounge covered in worn purple velvet. You felt in your own world, cut off from the rest.
“This place gives me the creeps,” Olga said.
But there was something about it I liked.
“I’ll take it,” I said.
The Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz, exiled in Buenos Aires because of World War II, and then staying on, wrote about the seediness of the ports. In passages of his diaries, where the sense suddenly darkens, blurs, we enter a vacuum, he talks about his activity in the ports, these meetings with young men. It’s the youth of Buenos Aires that intrigued him, the beautiful youth. He describes his own rejuvenation there, culminating in a moment when, vertiginous in the company of young people, he goes off to the bathroom and, looking in the mirror, sees the lines all over his face and, for the first time really, understands that he’s old.
Now the ports, as they once were, are gone. Instead in that spot there’s an artificial city under construction, largely the work of Russian developers, flashy hotels, apartment complexes, illuminated patches of grass. To get back to the city from the ports you have to cross a wasteland, on the other side of which lies what is known as “downtown.”
The streets of downtown, bustling during the day, are abandoned at night as if they hadn’t been inhabited for years. Your footsteps sound against them. What’s odd is that unlike in the rest of the city, here there’s no green. Everywhere else the streets are lined with trees, the balconies of the apartments are deluged with plants, green above and green below. Often, as you’re walking, water drips down on your head from plants that have just been watered above. Then there are the trees that drip naturally, the tipa. At certain times of the year, due to the parasite Cephisus siccifolius, which sucks the sap from the tree and excretes it in the form of a sugary liquid, the passerby, walking under, feels specks of water, like very light rain. Flamboyant, the Buenos Aires trees bloom not once but at several seasons. The jacaranda tree has pale purple blossoms that fall off long before they’re withered, littering the ground with pale purple trumpets; the palo borracho has pink blossoms, hand-size, the whole tree flames up with them; the small yellow flowers on the tipa trees give off a dizzying smell.
All the green downtown is collected in the Plaza San Martín. Against the trees here, so tall, a human is an insect. A lawn slopes down to the main avenue. Just beyond is the bus station, Retiro, also known as a site for seedy activity (don’t, you’re told, go there at night, unless you’re looking for seedy activity, in which case, do), and the port beyond. On the lawn that falls down from the Plaza San Martín, people lie out to sunbathe or sleep, exhausted in the middle of the workday. You can find men in business suits, women in stockings, eyes closed, passed out. People come here to kiss. In the evenings, in the darker spots, near where there are trees, you could practically make love, and people do. You think at first that everyone in Buenos Aires is in love. Then you realize that, in fact, many people live with their parents until much later in life, through their thirties, into their forties even. This is even more the case after the crash, when people who did have their own apartments gave them up and moved back home. So of course everyone’s always making out everywhere. They have nowhere else to go. Unless they can afford a hotel room. The city is full of these. You can find one on nearly every corner. You pay for two hours. (In Brazil, in these same hotels, you pay for three hours, a difference that has given rise to much speculation.) The rooms are often decorated with themes: ancient Greece, New York, the jungle room. There’s a plastic sheet to protect the mattress.
When night comes, the Buenos Aires streets are alive with people who live on the periphery in slums and come in dilapidated vehicles or horse-drawn wooden carts to sift through garbage. They collect the recyclables and bring them back to a warehouse where they’re sorted. They’re paid a piddling amount for all that labor, which is orchestrated through a corruption ring, the proceeds from which barely get them through the day, until evening comes and they go out again. In certain neighborhoods, there are no vestiges of this underlife during the day. The sun shines down on the Parisian-style buildings—the sun nearly always shines in Buenos Aires—and the glinting breezes blow up from the river, only to be interrupted occasionally by an abrupt downpour out of the blue, thundering ropes of rain that flood all the streets—the drainage system needs attention—and then just as abruptly cease, leaving the streets still flooded and, in certain neighborhoods where rents are cheaper for this very reason, even the houses flooded, all the first floors. Old women, unable to get from their places of work to the bus stop, can be seen wading knee-high against the current. Cars make turns on flooded corners, the water off the wheels spraying up in swaths, then pummeling down on storefront windows. Very, very slowly, the water goes down. When will they refurbish the drains? Surely not now, not for a while.
y new apartment was quiet. There were black-and-white tiles in the hallway. Every now and then a winged cockroach flew through the kitchen. The owner, Olga had told me, had gone to Europe and disappeared. Her brother rented the place out for her now. In the living room was a vine that wanted to creep in the window. “If you let it, you’ll have ants,” Olga said. I decided to let it for the moment.
“Are you sure you’re going to be all right?” Olga asked on leaving me the day I moved in. I reassured her.
The windows looked out on an abandoned back garden. No one ever went there. To one side was the white wall of the adjacent building. When it rained, water ran down the wall. I would sit there on the chaise lounge staring at the sheen of water for hours.
It was a mammoth building. There was no one in the halls. Sometimes, rarely, I’d hear a key turning. Another time, from the hallway, I heard the sounds of people making love in a somewhat brutal fashion. But the walls were thick. Once I was inside my apartment, I listened again and heard nothing.
I had paid Olga six months in advance. When the phone rang, it would startle me. It was always a wrong number. I felt as if, apart from Olga, nobody knew I was here.
In one of the books Brian had given me, I’d read about nineteenth-century urban plans to build parks or “green lungs” all over Buenos Aires, to ward off the infestations of tuberculosis. The idea was that the disease festered in the tiny cramped quarters with no ventilation where crowds of people lived on top of one another. The green lungs would allow these people open-air spaces where they could escape from their homes and come to sit and breathe. Now it seemed that instead of momentary refuges, people had just settled directly in the parks or plazas. This was new, Olga had told me. The year before there had hardly been a homeless person on the street. Now the square outside my building was full of people huddled, individuals, whole families, camped out, it seemed, permanently, and then right here this empty building.
Around the corner from my house was a church. At Mass hours, especially in the evening, people would be pressing in at the doorway, spilling out, couples, families, teenagers in their coolest clothes casting sidelong glances. One night, post-Mass, I saw a small group gathered on the church steps with baskets of food. I asked what they were doing and a woman, slightly cross-eyed, told me they were going around to feed the homeless. I asked if I could join them and she agreed, taking my hand in hers. It turned out to be an odd venture. As we moved around the streets from one cluster of homeless people to the next, the cross-eyed woman wouldn’t let go of my hand. If I dropped hers, she’d find a way to sidle over to me and pick mine up again. Not being able to bear this anymore, I finally broke away and hurried down a side street on my own.
On another corner was a small parrilla, or classic Argentine barbecue restaurant, where I’d go sometimes for a meal. I’d sit against the wall by the window. The waiter, a man who must have been in his fifties, with a long face and droopy eyes that showed the lower part of his eyeballs, called me “daughter,” as they sometimes did here. I’d wait for him to call me “daughter” when he was asking for my order or afterward, when he was bringing me the food. It was as if the food, the atmosphere were secondary. I’d come to hear him say that.
At the end of the block was a locutorio. The locutorio, I’d quickly grasped, was an Argentine institution, a public place lined with phone booths and computers where you could go to write an e-mail or make a call. They were always bustling. Even the cell phone culture hadn’t stymied them. You could sit down in the booths. Often there was a mirror. Women, as they were talking, fixed their makeup and hair. People who’d lost their offices during the crash ran their businesses from here, students without computers shacked up to write their papers. Kids sat in rows playing video games. Of course, there were undoubtedly all kinds of illicit things occurring there as well, in the privacy of telephone booths and computer screens. I would go every few days and read my e-mails, from friends, from my mother, from my ex-boss, the botanist. But I rarely lingered. My other life seemed, in all ways, far away.
Thinking it would be good if I met some people, I decided to put up signs at the university offering English classes. The Philosophy and Letters branch, previously a factory building, was far from the center of the city. I went there one afternoon. The entrance-way was low and dim. The walls, ceiling to floor, even along the stairs, were papered with bulletins, calls for meetings, political tracts, torn off, recovered, torn again, giving the impression of an entire interior plastered with papier mâché. In the bathrooms, there were no toilet seats and no paper. Rather than carrying books around, the students for the most part carried photocopies. Later, I would learn that this was because books were expensive. I wandered around on the different floors, looking in doorways and posting my own signs.
In the afternoons, I walked. I always took the same route, down the hill to the big avenue. Along the avenue, there were brilliant green patches, grassy spots with trees. Thick pods from the palo borracho trees burst and spread tufts of cotton all over the ground. There were several statues I liked, one of a girl in rough stone, nearly featureless but with curves, sitting and leaning to the side, propping herself up with her hand, another of a faun. He was behind her, up on his hind legs. One night, he appeared in my dream. “I want to suck your armpit,” he said. I walked here almost every day, but then, as sometimes happened when I had nothing to do, I walked on endlessly for hours.
I circled outward into neighborhoods I didn’t know, the pale buildings, dark doorways, the plazas with dogs loitering, a fountain not working but half filled with copper-colored rainwater, the clanking buses hurtling by. I’d lose my way completely in streets whose names I didn’t know. The whole sky was light. The shadows looked blacker here than anywhere I remembered. I would get walking and wouldn’t stop. In the wide dark doorway of a garage a man stood in the center cutting up meat.
As I said, there were often crowds. Sometimes I skirted them, looked and skirted. One time I got caught up. Something happened. We were out in front of the government building. There were policemen with plastic shields, a helicopter overhead. The crowd started to panic, ran. One guy with his pants down was running right toward me. He must have been caught off-guard peeing. I ran too. We were in a square, dodging statues. My heart was racing. There was exhilaration mixed with the fear. People were scrambling, touching, in a way that would have been impossible under any other circumstance. In one moment, we were all rubbing against each other and the next we were dispersed. I found myself spiraling off, into a new neighborhood. I slowed down, catching my breath.
The Jardín Botánico was crawling with cats, hundreds and hundreds of them. They crept over everything, collected, preened.
The city would abruptly change the subject. I had felt this from the start. You were walking along a smooth Palermo street lined with bars and shops and would suddenly stumble into a wasteland, grass and dirt. Or you looked through a doorway into a huge empty hole. It was an unfinished city, but not only that. It seemed interminable, an interminable job. This was also what I liked.
“Swann, an American who has lived in Buenos Aires for the past decade, vividly evokes the city and its lively, diverse, and conflicted social landscape, from the denizens of posh hotels to the unfortunate poor living in the city’s slums. . . . Seductively hard to put down.”—The Boston Globe
“The three women in Maxine Swann’s The Foreigners hope to leave their worries behind by plunging into the wild glamour of Buenos Aires, but find even greater surprises when the stumble into the recesses of their own lives.”—W
“Post-crash Buenos Aires is the nourish setting of Maxine Swann’s The Foreigners, in which an untethered American divorcee dabbles in increasingly risky funny games with the help of a local provocateuse.”—Vogue
“The city of Buenos Aires dazzles in this novel about three women who find sex, adventure, and more sex in the Paris of South America.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Atmospheric, evocative literary fiction that ruminates on what it means and how it feels to be foreign.”—Booklist
“Whether native or foreigner, each character is displaced and wrestles with the outcome. With lyricism and observational skill that recalls early Joan Didion, Swann brings Buenos Aires to life.”—Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Beautifully written, sensual and seductive.”—Kirkus
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