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The Neoliberal “Virus”: Capitalism and the Body from Augustine’s CONFESSIONS to Colm Tóibín’s THE STORY OF NIGHT

Guillermo Severiche

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Guillermo Severiche

Louisiana State University


The Neoliberal “Virus”:

Capitalism and the Body from Augustine’s Confessions to Colm Tóibín’s The Story of the Night


This essay is an exploration of the 1997 book La cosa y la cruz: cristianismo y capitalismo written by the Argentine philosophe León Rozitchner. He analyzes Augustine’s Confessions in order to envisage the strong relationship between Capitalism and Christianity and the devaluation of the body as the material for exploitation. A similar procedure could be found in Colm Toíbín’s novel The Story of the Night, in which the body infected with AIDS becomes the perfect surface of inscription of a devastated country (Argentina) after the dictatorship (1976-1983) and its economic consequences.


In his Confessions, Augustine displays a pedagogical intention strongly tied to his Christian perception of the world. Talking about his own life (reflecting on his sins, his decisions, his regrets and love of God) he portrays a model, a life dedicated entirely to the divinity; and this is an aspect in which the body, the flesh, enters as an important element. Through the whole text, Augustine sustains a clear binary formed by the body, the sexual (the sinful motive) and the mental, the spiritual (the grace of God); a binary in which Augustine clearly gives preference to the Spirit.

            The equation that configures the Confessions is analyzed by the Argentine philosopher León Rozitchner in his 1997 book entitled La cosa y la cruz: cristianismo y capitalismo (The Thing and the Cross: Christianity and Capitalism). Rozitchner explains the strong connection between this religion and the Capitalist machinery. Christianity has had an important role in the success of Capitalism in the world, promoting a particular human model that benefits Capital’s interest. In order to do so, Rozitchner, a declared atheistic Jew, analyzes Augustine’s Confessions as an example of the epitome of Christian ideology. He takes as a premise the statement that Augustine proposed in his text: “by being frugal with the flesh, you will be able to invest in Spirit” (12). The Body, devalued by Christianity, becomes the key element for the “undifferentiated labor” of Capitalism. Analyzing Augustine’s Confessions, Rozitchner reveals the role of mediator that Christianity has played between Capitalism and the Body, constructing an efficient subjectivity lacking in sensibility, a residue of the pure /abstract Spirit, but extremely useful for the calculation and exploitation by the Capital.

            The mechanism that Rozitchner discloses using Augustine’s text, can be also traced in the novel The Story of the Night which the Irish writer, Colm Tóibín, published one year before Rozitchner’s work in 1996. Set in Argentina in the time of the last military dictatorship (1970’s and the beginning of the 1980’s) and until the beginning of the ‘90s, the book tells the story of Richard Garay, an Argentinian man of British descent. After he resigns his job as a teacher of English, Garay starts to work as an interpreter for an American couple who are employed for the American government and play an important role in the new investments in Argentina. Garay witnesses all the negotiations between a small group of businessmen, negotiations which determine not only the future president of the country, but also the adaptation of Neoliberal policies on the political scene. At the same time, Garay hides his sexuality from society and experiences the AIDS epidemic when he contracts this disease. Tóibín proposes a parallelism between the body and the political / economic situation of the country, in a formula opposite to Augustine’s conception. Garay’s personal confrontation of the alien “virus” reinforces the idea of the foreign interests that affect the future of this South American nation. Therefore, the aim of this article is to read Tóibín’s novel through Augustine’s Confessions and Rozitchner’s perspective in order to envisage a clearer role of the body as a surface of inscription and a space of resistance for the entry of Neoliberalism in Argentina.


The Undifferentiated Labor, the Body and the Capital


“I was flesh, and a wind that goes away and returns not.”

Augustine of Hippo


One of the first statements that Rozitchner addresses is the strong necessity of Christianity for Capitalism’s success. The worldwide diffusion of this mechanism is inconceivable for him without a certain “human model” that Christianity sustained since its appearance. Rozitchner sees a strong relationship that needs to be disclosed, and the material he finds to do so is Augustine’s Confessions. In this text, according to Rozitchner, it is possible to reveal the careful construction of a “model” which is the basis for Christianity, which he considers as a “method for social subjugation.” His proposal is to read the Confessions with a particular magnifying glass that explores the “fundamental equation” of Augustine’s human configuration.

            The Argentinian philosopher presents an isolated man, relegated to a mechanical job in which his own persona has lost value. The process of devaluation that Rozitchner discloses in La cosa y la cruz explains not only the strong tie between Capitalism and Christianity, but also the subject carefully constructed by Augustine, a subject whose “work” is to “divest” himself of his own body. Now, what are the main ideas that Rozitchner states as the basis for the success of Capitalism? The first and most important concept is the separation of the body and the spirit, leaving the flesh as a residue and an object for re-utilization and exploitation by the capitalistic entrepreneur:


First, it was necessary to impose by terror a basic premise: man’s body, sensitive flesh and filled with love, had to be devaluated and considered a mere residue of the abstract Spirit. Only by this way, the body could be liberated to count and calculation, to the cold predominance of the quantitative infinite over all human qualities (10, my translation)


According to Rozitchner, this “basic premise” takes place in the Confessions, which is possible to read as one of the first spaces where these two “associated accomplices” have met. Augustine achieves the construction of a subjectivity which considers “death”, “punishment” and “sacrifice” as important factors that will lead men to an eternal “enjoyment” of the soul (an eternal existence in the purity of life beyond death).

The Argentine philosopher also points out that even in our time, when Christianity seems to have lost the power it used to have, its influence is very strong in Western society. No matter which religion one practices, no matter which language one speaks, the Western culture is strongly influenced by Christianity and, hence, by the subjectivity that Augustine develops in his text:


Although now, postmoderns, the life of each subject is organized distanced from the ancient regulations and fears, from its hierarchies and phantoms; however, the image of that rebel crucified to death still organizes Western subjectivity. Even in crisis […] Christianity is indissolubly tied to Capitalism (11, my translation).


Rozitchner focuses on the particular figure of Christ, the son of a virgin mother, the rebel, the one who sacrifices himself for humanity and purifies us from our sins. A death (of the being made flesh) was necessary for the resurrection, for the eternal one (the spiritual). In his Confessions, Augustine also portrays the image of his parents, in which he depicts a series of symbols that sustain his episcopal perception of life, love, sex and eternity.

If the body becomes a residue of the Spirit, a “depreciation” of it was necessary; and according to Rozitchner, the first step was the expropriation of sexual / carnal side of the maternal image. The key element for the “undifferentiated labor” is the “devaluated body” that Christianity prepares for Capitalism’s benefit.


The first thing required was the exclusion of the ‘genitor’ mother’s body […] into the Virgin as a body of life. This negation has to penetrate, to be efficient, into the unconscious. Therefore the body of the virgin mother is the first abstract social machine, producer of bodies called by death (12, my translation).


Christianity assigns the fertile characteristic of a mother to a virgin and excludes the Magna Mater that is related to nature and fecundation. A masculine, abstract and patriarchal imaginary represses these qualities, dominates them and becomes the force that reassures eternal salvation.

            Augustine, in the first part of his Confessions, starts to devise this mechanism: he tells us that when he was born it was not his mother who feeds him, but “the Father”. From the beginning, Augustine searches for God into all those internal places where the mother left the strongest impression, her mark, in order to transform God in something intimate, present and near.


I only know that the gifts Your mercy had provided sustained me from the first moment […] Thus for my sustenance and my delight I had woman’s milk: yet it was not my mother or my nurses who stored their breasts for me: it was Yourself, using them to give me the food of my infancy, according to Your ordinance and the riches set by You at every level of creation. […] It was a good for them that I received good from them, though I received it not from them but only through them (Augustine 6 – 7).


Even in this particular passage it is possible to see this conversion of a maternal body into a patriarchal entity / spirituality. The milk becomes a sign, the material element for the masculine and rational signifier (God). The mother’s body turns into a ‘duct’ for the spiritual grace. Augustine needs to affirm that his distance from God is as close as the one between the mother and a newborn child. He needs this relationship “as an original feeling of the body, not only as conscious knowledge, but as original as the strong mark of the mother” (Rozitchner 27).

            Augustine not only devalues the body of the mother, but also his “carnal” father. He constructs two different fathers: 1) the Father, idealized by the mother, the God-Father that has fed him by his mother’s milk, the one whom he talks about all the time, and 2) a father made from flesh, despised by the mother, the real and ‘genitor’ father of Augustine. These are two completely different figures, each one with a different value.


I then believed, as did my mother and all our household, except my father: yet he did not prevail over the hold my mother’s piety had upon me, to lead me not to believe in Christ because he did not as yet. She used all endeavor, O God, that I should hold You for my father rather than him: and in this with Your aid she overcame her husband, in her greater virtue serving him because in serving him she served Your command likewise (Augustine 14).


The hierarchy is very clear: the Father, the spiritual and perfect figure is the first one, the one devoted by the mother (the second one), who despised the inferior and carnal father. But in which sense is this aspect important for Rozitchner’s disclosure of Christianity and Capitalism? How does this devalued paternal figure made by flesh serve to the mechanism of the insensitive body as part of Capital’s machinery? Only by “idealizing” the father, the procreation with the virgin mother becomes “pure”, which means, lacking of pleasure / sensibility. In this sense, Augustine presents a Son devoted to the spiritual Father, flesh of the Virgin (an insensitive mother), a product capable of offering his body to Eternity, and therefore, to the exploitation of the Capitalism.

            The Argentine philosopher affirms that in this way “procreation” without “pleasure” can be conceived. The “spiritual savior seed” comes from the Holy Husband, idealized by the mother, not from the actual husband, the sensual body. “Procreation with no pleasure” is the first step to distance oneself from the dominant man and create, with no pain, the immortality announced in the Son (56). Hence, the mortal body of the Son, that renounces enjoyment of the flesh, can be the medium for immortality of the soul. Again, the body and the Spirit receive different positions with differentiated appreciations, and in this case, mingled in the crucified figure of the Son.

            How does the dead crucified body that assures the eternal life of the soul contribute to the capitalistic system? According to Rozitchner, Augustine represents repetitively the existence of a Law that has to be felt as a “death threat”. With no death there is not infinite enjoyment. Enjoyment is the other side of the infinite death. The Son’s flesh has to die to reach eternal grace. For Augustine, fornication is the place where enjoyment and death comingle (61).


I could not distinguish the white light of love from the fog of lust. Both love and lust boiled within me, and swept my youthful immaturity over the precipice of evil desires to leave me half drowned in a whirlpool of abominable sins. Your wrath had grown against me and I knew it not. […] You were always by me, mercifully hard upon me, and besprinkling all my illicit pleasures with certain elements of bitterness, to draw me on to seek for pleasures in which no bitterness should be. And where was I to find such pleasures save in You O Lord, You who use sorrow to teach, and wound us to heal, and kill us lest we die to You (27 – 28).


Exulted life and fear of death appear together in fornication. The Law that governs his body and assures his eternity is a necessity for the older Augustine who reflects on the younger one. There is no other form to get the “celestial” benefits by obeying the Law that “wounds” us and “kills” us to make us reach the Spiritual life. “Pain” is here one of the exclusive forms in which the body becomes subjugated, “enslaved” by the Holy Being.

            It is necessary to be in control of the body’s drives toward other bodies, things, emotions and all type of sensitive impulse. And for what? The answer is, “to reach eternity.” Augustine’s logic can be summarized in a highly eloquent equation that also can be found in any kind of economical transaction: “by being frugal with the flesh, you will be able to invest in Spirit” (12). Preserving carnal drives, “saving” for the future, one can assure himself / herself the “celestial dividends”. Augustine presents us a transaction that is also a basic formula for Capital’s dynamic.

            The devaluation of the body employed in the Confessions is related to 1) the maternal figure lacking in erogenous drives; 2) the carnal father replaced by the spiritual and idealized Father; 3) the procreation with no pleasure that allows the Son to reach immortality, to renounce his mortal body to obtain the eternal life of the Spirit; 4) death and pain as necessary mediums to obey the Law and reach the Eternal Grace;  and 5) the investment of the flesh for “celestial profit”. All these elements contribute to the configuration of a body lacking in sensibility, a residue that must be excluded from oneself, the great obstacle to reach Eternity. This formula results in the transformation of the body into an object that forms the main element of the capitalistic system. Capitalism would not exist without insensitive bodies that make work the machinery, supported by a Christian subjectivity. Augustine’s Confessions is the most evident proof of this entire process.


The Embodiment of a “Sick” Argentina: Colm Tóibín’s Novel


“There is no society here, just a terrible loneliness

which bears down on us all, and bears down on me now”

Colm Tóibín

The process of devaluation described by Augustine and revealed by Rozitchner can be found in Colm Tóibín’s novel as well. However, what the Irish writer presents in The Story of the Night is an opposite equation.  The body is not an element divested of its significance, but a powerful entity, sensitive and erotic. Tóibín reinstates the body in its position as live matter, capable of perceiving and producing meaning, feelings and sensations. The body, at the end, suffers from the advent of AIDS at the same time that a “vulnerable” country receives foreign investors interested mainly in its oil industry. By telling the story of Richard Garay, an Argentinian man of British descent during the years of the last dictatorship and the subsequent arrival of Neoliberalism.  The author sets his novel in a particular context: a country devastated by a violent dictatorship, a political and economic discourse that perpetrated the entrance of foreign interests, corruption and increase of the breach between poor and rich people. It is necessary to explore the condition of Argentina, a country which resorted to Neoliberalism as the unique solution at that time in order to understand the allegory depicted in Tóibín’s novel.

            In 2005, the Argentinian sociologist Maristella Svampa published her book La sociedad excluyente [The exclusive society] in which she analyses the years after the dictatorship that determined the gradual entrance of neoliberal politics in Argentina. According to Svampa, the beginning of the change in economic politics took place during the military dictatorship during the decade of the 1970s. The installation of military regimes in the Southern Cone of Latin America signified a re-structuration that becomes more visible in the 1980’s. How did this process develop in the previous years of violence and oppression? Svampa has an answer to this question:


Like in other Latin American countries, the objective of the Argentinian military dictatorship was to carry out politics of repression, at the same time it aspired to re-found the material basis of the society. In consequence, the introduced cut was double: in one hand, through State terrorism, it pointed at the extermination and discipline of vast mobilized social sectors; in the other hand, it set in motion a program of economic-political re-structuration that would produce deep repercussions in the social and productive structure (22-23, my translation).


According to Svampa, what the dictatorship introduced was a change into a “regime of accumulation,” a re-structuration based on the importation of goods and capital that interrupted the national industrialization and internal production, which in turn promoted a strong indebtedness in both the public and private sectors.  Politics not only destroyed the basis of the possibility of a national coalition, but also established the precepts for the arrival of a dominant system controlled by economic groups comprised of some national groups, but mostly international groups.

            Once the dictatorship ended, the return of the democracy with Raúl Alfonsín heralded a complicated time with a devastated economy and hyper-inflation. When a new crisis was perceived in the environment, new relationships (State – foreign companies) appeared in a moment in which the country needed a prompt solution. The military corporation was not useful anymore for the economic interests of foreign companies that wanted to invest in Argentina. The economically powerful groups established new relations with favorite political parties (31). There was a “democratic mandate”, promoted mainly by the United States and other international organizations. The discourse of Neoliberalism found its place at this time, in a vulnerable country, and was accepted as the unique solution for all problems. Into this political environment appeared the figure of Carlos Menem, who became the president of Argentina and stayed in charge for almost ten years (1989-1999).

            Menem promoted a new model for the country, based basically in liberal strategies that dismantled and delegitimized the previous model of populist national direction (the power of the State came from the laborer population; all the policies were directed to benefit them and this reinforced Peron’s supremacy in the government). All the power that the State used to have in controlling the market was completely abolished and the rules of the market started to manage the future of a country. The State favored the dynamic market and liberalized the foreign investment in Argentina. This new model of “exclusive modernization,” as Svampa names it, modified the insertion of the country in the world’s economy: Argentina’s economy became increasingly impoverished and the country became a land open to investments and importation, deeply affecting local industry.  

            How are all these events registered in Colm Tóibín’s novel? How did he end up portraying Argentina in this particular time, and how did the body become the surface of inscription of the country’s devastation? Involved in his work as a journalist, Tóibín travelled to Argentina to write about the trials of the members of the Junta (the military dictatorship) that took place during the first years of the return of the democracy. His book published in 1990, The Trial of the Generals, is his first approach to the Argentinian political and economic situations.  Later, in 1996, he published The Story of the Night, a novel that is also considered the first work in which he clearly states a topic related to homosexuality. In a time of post-decriminalization of homosexuality in Ireland, Tóibín plays an important role as a writer who at this time came out as a gay author. According to Eibhear Walshe, male bodies in Tóibín’s novels reflect the issues that arise from homosexuality:


In all of his gay fictions, the homoerotic as a literary trope is shifting, eroded, absent or displaced to somewhere outside the everyday life of 1990s Ireland. Tóibín’s imagined gay identity is never directly inscribable on the contemporary Irish body, or on the contemporary cultural or social landscape of Ireland” (Walshe 118).


This is another important reason that can describe Tóibín’s decision of presenting Richard Garay, the Argentinian gay man in his novel in another cultural context distant from the Irish.

            Richard Garay, son of an Argentinian man and an English woman, grows up in Buenos Aires and starts to explore his sexuality during the years of the last military dictatorship (1976 – 1983). Garay witnesses the death of Perón, the arrival of the Junta and the years of violence and disappearances (heard, implied, but not ever seen) as a result of the Junta, the Malvinas Islands War, and the return of democracy with Raúl Alfonsín in 1983. After his mother’s death, Garay, an English teacher by trade finds himself alone in a big city (his father had died when he was a child), working in a profession that he does not enjoy. His entire life suddenly changes when he meets Susan and Donald Ford, two American agents who work for an international economic organization (Institute for Economic Development) and apparently for the CIA, as well. Garay works with them as an interpreter and becomes one of American couple’s best friends. He starts to meet investors (mainly from the USA) who visit Argentina in order to establish new businesses. Later, Garay meets Pablo Canetto, a young Argentinian man who used to live in United States; he is the brother of Jorge, one of his first students he had taught at the beginning of his career as a teacher. Garay is a friend of the Cannetto family, but he must hide the romantic relationship that he has begun with Pablo.  Garay earns more and more money and, in a moment when everything seems to be perfect, Pablo breaks up with him. Pablo does not talk to him anymore, and Richard tries to move on. But later, Garay finds out that he has AIDS and then, Pablo finds out that he has it too. They see each other in the doctor’s office and start a more honest relationship.

             Tóibín presents a story written in first person, in the voice of a sick man (or maybe, a dead man). What is the point of combining a love story with an intimate perspective of the privatization of the Argentinian companies, of the arrival of Carlos Ménem in the government, of the American investments and the external debt? Tóibin goes from a gaze that observes the gradual devastation of a country to a gaze that focuses on his own body. Tóibín presents a formula completely opposite to the one that Rozitchner has revealed from Augustine’s Confessions, in which the body separates itself from the Spirit in order to become an important element for the capitalistic system. Tóibín gives the body back its characteristic vivid element, able to perceive and represent the oppression of the Capital and as sensitive as the economy of a vulnerable country as Argentina was after the dictatorship. The presence of a body that becomes infected by AIDS is an allegory of a weak country that gets “infected” by an alien “virus” that devours its strongest pillars (its local industry).

            From the beginning, the narrator adjoins sexuality (corporality) and political issues. During the dictatorship, Garay has sexual encounters with a man who lives next to a police station. It is suggested that this place is a clandestine center of torture run by military forces. Garay remembers his moments of pleasure imagining they took place while people might be tortured in the building next to them.


I still do not know if what he said was true, if that was one of the centers in the city to which people were taken, and if we fondled each other and came to orgasm within moments of each other to the sound of the revving of cars which gave power to the instruments of torture. It made no difference then, because I did not pay much attention to what he said, and I remember the pleasure of standing at the window with him, my hands running down his back, more than anything else (8).


Tóibín establishes a strong tie between body and politics from the very beginning. This kind of liaison is never abandoned and becomes the central element that runs through the entire novel.

            The Canetto family belongs to the wealthy social sphere in Argentina that has the power to decide the future of the entire country. But at the same time, and Tóibín is very clear in this point, the wealthy part of the Argentinian society has established a strong relationship with United States and business men interested in making money from the country. Garay sees that the decision about whom is going to be the next president of Argentina (after Alfonsín) is made by this small group of people. Rather than a decision being the choice of an entire population, Menem is the figure selected by this group because he fits in their own economic interests.


An whoever would replace him, Señor Canetto and his friends were sure, would have to have a base in Peronism, without being anti-American, would be more right-wing than Alfonsín, would have no connection to the generals who ran the war, but still have allies in the army. […] there were people close to the American Embassy who wanted to fund serious democratic parties in Argentina so that the next elections would see an orderly transfer of power from Alfonsín to a civilian successor. Reagan’s administration, it was believed, wanted no more dictators in South America; it wanted to fund and support Christian Democratic parties (76 – 77).


The American interests are important in making this decision. It is in this context in which Garay ends up meeting Susan and Donald Ford. Tóibín describes them as a mature couple, still covered in a sensual energy that captivates and that seems to be present all the time. Garay, due to his perfect English and his polite manners, becomes a good friend of theirs, and they entrust him with a new job: taking care of the American visitors. Garay sees them as a powerful couple, “involved in every cent which the United States put into the campaign for the election of Carlos Menem and maybe other candidates” (83).

Garay then, also, adopts the same perspective. As Svampa describes, the main concern at this time was to find a figure which could fulfill people’s concerns, related mainly to economic issues. The new direction was on how to deal with the economy, the “saint mandate” that opens the door to Neoliberalism. Garay says:


The business of human rights […] and how the country is viewed from abroad will matter in the campaign. […] the winner will win on his economic policies, essentially on what he can offer the middle class. Our campaign, for example, will center on inflation, investment, and unemployment (93).


The voice that tells the story, the one of the body that later gets sick, is the one that sustains the neoliberal discourse. Tóibín has created a character who combines not only this discourse, but also the one of the gay man infected by AIDS.

            Garay becomes a “neutral figure”: he does not only have to translate for a group of American economists sent by the IMF, but also assists them in all that they need. The role of Garay is central in terms of the intervention of the United States in a country with a powerful debt. Tóibín has seen in Garay the perfect “neutrality” in which he associates the “invasion” of external interests and an external virus. But also, Garay deals with investors who want to buy the national companies, especially, the oil company. The political and economic deals occupy almost two thirds of the novel. In this novel, Tóibín incorporates a clear discourse that cannot be avoided: a powerful entrepreneurial group has arrived in Argentina and is determined to take as much advantage of the situation as it can.

            Now, how does Tóibín introduce the body? Garay is a gay man, who has several sexual encounters with different men, who usually visits saunas; he describes his sensations but hides them from everybody at the same time. Garay’s voice eludes telling us about parts of his body, his lovers’ body and the social dynamic of male bodies in a dark room at a sauna. It is here where he sees Pablo and finds out he is also gay. Little by little, they get closer and start a relationship. Pablo has two American friends who come to Argentina for a visit.  One of them has AIDS. Through them, Tóibín introduces the condition to a group of men subjugated to a devastating virus.

            How does Garay observe the arrival of AIDS? Not only through Pablo’s friend sick body, but also through his own body. After he ends his relationship with Pablo, Garay travels to New York and meets a sexual partner in a hotel. He feels tired, sick and coughs all the time. He decides to go back to Argentina. Garay describes in detail all the sensations that his body has in a graphic context:


Each time I coughed I felt a sharp pain in my back. I felt hot and sweaty. I lay there trying to stop but I had no control over my breathing. […] Every bone in my body was sore, and I felt that I was not going to be able to continue breathing. […] As soon as I lay down I knew that I was really sick, and getting sicker […]. It had never occurred to me before that I should be grateful for being well, but now I saw the time when I was not like this as something I wanted to experience again (288 – 290).


Once he gets back to Argentina, he goes to the hospital and finds out that he has contracted a strong form of pneumonia and that he has AIDS. The doctor explains that his immune system is weak and that this is the first disease of many. In this third part, Tóibín goes over different symptoms of AIDS, its treatment, and the whole psychological process of understanding this disease. The political / economic issues have been left behind. Garay does not go back to work, because his attention is entirely dedicated to dealing with this new condition.


my body would be covered in a sheet and pushed on a trolley to the morge, that before then I would spend weeks, maybe months, languishing here or at home, becoming thinner and weaker, waiting for the long ordeal that would result in being  alive one minute, alert, with a full memory, and the next minute dead, everything gone. I would fade away (294 – 295).


We barely hear now about Menem, about the oil company and the two Americans (who decide to leave the country). The industries have been sold, Menem is the new president and both the government and the investors are happy. Everything seems to be done. At this point Garay becomes sick. Little by little, after a long revision of the country’s economic conditions and its decline, the body appears as another surface who suffers the same equation. An alien virus has invaded it and has started to destroy it. The weakening of the body that Tóibín presents in great detail can be read as a premonition of the country’s situation. The body becomes the most sensitive element to represent the damages of a neoliberal equation in a vulnerable nation.


From Augustine’s to Tóibín’s Body


What is the point in comparing Augustine’s conception of the body revealed by Rozitchner with Tóibín’s susceptible body? The material prepared by Christianity and used by Capitalism is the one that becomes significant in a literary context. The novel, The Story of Night, inscribes the power of the body in representing an entire “sick” nation, attacked by the virus of “Capital.” What Rozitchner does in 1997 with his analysis of the Confessions, Tóibín reflects upon in his literary text. Fiction has granted the body that position of being a powerful element of political discourse.

            The equation of Augustine, in which the faithful human being has to restrain his/her natural drives in order to gain celestial profits, cannot be applicable in the representation that Tóibín configures in his novel. The body is a vivid element, with strong drives; it is a body that feels, that has pleasure and loves, and that at the end, gets sick.

            In a country with a susceptible economic situation, Garay places himself as the center, who observes the entrance of, on one hand, new economic policies that jeopardize the nation’s “health” and, on the other hand, a virus that will destroy his body. Keeping himself as “ignorant” and, in essence, “naïve,” from the transactions and corruption (Kaminsky 195), he cannot ignore the symptoms of his body. The political issue, the strong criticism stated by Tóibín through Garay’s eyes, becomes more physical, tangible, and “real.” The body retrieves its condition of significant element that Augustine separated from it in his Confessions. Tóibín’s novel is another proof of a fictional work that puts the body in the center and makes it speak; its voice is something that needs to be heard.




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