Introduction: Fiction and Economy



In Money to Burn, a recent narrative of a real historical event by the Argentinean writer Ricardo Piglia,1 a group of men steal seven million pesos (the equivalent of almost six hundred thousand US dollars in 1965, when the story takes place) from the Provincial Bank of Buenos Aires. After their initial plans of escape fail, they cross the border to Montevideo, where they end up besieged in an apartment previously bugged by the police. Sustained by an arsenal of weapons, a good provision of various drugs, their faith in their leader’s capacity to come up with a plan to rescue them and a deep hatred for the armed forces, the men resist increasingly violent attacks from the police force, scoring several ‘victories’ (deaths) in the process. According to a journalist’s account, ‘every victory achieved under such impossible conditions increased their capacity to resist. … This was why what followed had the aspect of a tragic ritual that no one who was there that night could ever forget’ (Piglia 2003b, 155). In the episode from which the narrative takes its title, the men’s resistance reaches its climax when they set fire to the stolen money and throw the burning 1000-peso bills out of the window, one by one, ‘in a move that left the city and the country horror-struck, and which lasted precisely fifteen interminable minutes, which is exactly how long it takes to burn such an astronomical quantity of money…’ (ibid., 157).


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2007

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