Diary of the War of the Pig Summary
by Adolfo Bioy Casares

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Diary of the War of the Pig Summary

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

A nightly card game in a Buenos Aires café opens the action of the novel. Here, members of an elderly group discuss the topic that dominates the ensuing narrative: Members of a youth movement are exterminating old people. On their way home from the game, Don Vidal and his friends witness an encounter with one of the repressive squads of youths. In an alleyway, amid the turmoil of yelling and brutal sounds of sadistic aggression, they discover the body of the old newspaper vendor, Don Manuel. This nightmarish experience is repeated throughout the story as Don Vidal slowly discovers his precarious position in this absurd war of the pigs; that is, of the elderly.

Soon, Don Vidal feels the threat of his own extinction as the warring bands of youths raid the squalid tenements. After the death of Señor Huberman, the neighborhood upholsterer, the youth organization attacks members of Vidal’s own group of cronies. First, Néstor Labarthe is killed while attending a soccer game with his son. His brutal murder, in the presence and by consent of his own son, bitterly divides the group into those who try to avoid the danger by conforming and those who try to rebel against the harassment of the youth-oriented society. The second tragedy caused by the juvenile squads sends Dante Révora, another elderly gentleman in the group, to the hospital.

In the midst of all these devastating events, Don Isidoro Vidal finds refuge from his frustration in the arms of Nélida, a beautiful and young neighbor who falls in love with the middle-aged protagonist. This erotic adventure becomes a turning point in the novel, for it provides the background for the examination of the polarization of the old people and their delinquent enemies, an antagonism which is developed from the outset: “It was as if with her beside him he would be safe, not from the young people—this threat had almost ceased to alarm him—but from the contagion to which he was clearly susceptible (given the sensitivity he felt for his environment), the insidious and terrible contagion of old age.”

Love, then, becomes the catalyst which neutralizes the protagonist’s pessimistic response to the biological, if not spiritual, process of decay, of aging and ultimate death: “Young people cannot understand how having no future to look forward to eliminates everything that is important in life to an old person. The sickness is not the sick person, he thought, but an old man is old age, and there is no other way out but death .” More than simply providing a happy conclusion to an otherwise fantastic tale of tragic dimension, the love motif between the middle-aged Vidal and the...

(The entire section is 662 words.)