THE past season has yielded a full crop of books about Latin America, each crowding twenty-one republics between two covers. Usually they have been done with maddening superficiality by gadders who have flown their 20,000 miles and sat down to tell all. With relief we welcome books which stick to single countries, especially those most important lands, Brazil and Argentina.
John White’s Argentina, The Life Story of a Nation gives much informal history of the sort gained from living with a country for years. Perhaps the best part of his book (also that which will be most warmly debated) is his description of the people. “The Argentine,” he says, “is so concerned with maintaining his dignity that he forgets to be gay.” The people of Argentina have a long-standing grudge against the North Americans. Mr. White finds the explanation in the fact that the Argentine and the North American are so startlingly alike: both, he suggests, are “materialistic, imperialistic, hypocritical, overbearing, and insincere.” Both “talk too loudly in public places, as though afraid that they will not be seen unless heard.” To which one would like to remark, “Some do, some don’t.” Mr. White is pretty rough on the Argentines. “Serves them right,” some may counter; “the Argentines are pretty rough on us.” Mr. White’s analysis of the historic and economic reasons for Argentina’s edginess in the world situation is useful. His account deserves careful reading, for he has lived with the people longer than any other outside writer.
The importance of Argentina in the all-American picture is so great that we should work overtime trying to understand this people. Mr. White helps, but I am not convinced that he likes his Argentines as much as they deserve. They are brusque, often overbearing — but they are direct, energetic, able. Let us have more helps to finding out how they think, why they think what they do. The Western Hemisphere will find no unity until we establish a firmer accord with them. H. H.