In her introduction to Edgardo Cozarinsky's collection of stories, Urban Voodoo (first published in Buenos Aires in 1985), Susan Sontag defined him as a filmmaker turned writer. She wrote that his tales, with their unforgettable visual descriptions, belonged to a tradition of 'rueful, semi-hallucinatory depictions of … the strangeness of modern city life'. In the new century, Cozarinsky has established himself as one of the most individual voices to emerge from modern Argentina. If some people see him as a disciple of Borges (his early books include Borges In and On Film), Cozarinsky cites Henry James as the first and most important influence on his work. His novels and stories, while they have a brevity unknown to James, are full of hidden, half-told histories, subtle references to names, tunes, places that may mean little at first but which are imbued with the melancholy of tango, the hopelessness of exile and the allure of the exotic; exciting when seen from the distance of time, tawdry and deceptive up close.
Cozarinsky's latest book, The Moldavian Pimp (Harvill Secker), is based on a little-known part of twentieth-century Argentinian history. In 1891, a large portion of land was sold by the Argentinian government to Baron Maurice de Hirsch, who had the intention of setting up 'colonies' for persecuted Jews, many, though not