Shall Bear His Name
About the book:
Analía Kalinec was born during the dictatorship in the late ’70, into a middle-class family, the daughter of a housewife and a policeman. She had a relationship of mutual affection and admiration with her father. It took her 25 years to know that he was also known as ‘Dr. K’, the perpetrator of kidnappings, murders, torture, and other crimes against humanity. In 2005, with her father in prison after the reinstatement of the trials against those involved in genocidal crimes, she paid the price of breaking the mandate of silence imposed upon the families of those who took part in human rights violations. She was threatened and cast away from her family.
In 2017, together with other relatives of genocidal criminals who -like her- refused to accept to be complicit with the horror, she formed the group called Historias Desobedientes (Disobedient Stories), to claim the right to testify against the genocidal criminals and evince the consequences of the crimes against humanity within the families. Since then, Analía has been facing a lawsuit for “unworthiness” from her father and her sisters to disinherit her. I Shall Bear His Name is the story of someone building her own name under the enormous weight of a sinister, denied past, which is inhabited and purged through words.
Dad is in prison, don’t be scared. It’s August 31, 2005, the day of St. Raymond (Nonnatus), patron saint of children and pregnant women. And dad is in prison. I can’t understand, I cry. I believe in God, Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth. What do torture, kidnappings, and the forced disappearance of people have to do with my dad? Nothing. Who are these people? What are they saying? I can’t understand. My dad is good, he is my dad. Truth insists. It hurts to know. He’s my dad, I love my dad. Not him. There’s a mistake, you're wrong, he is my dad. You don’t understand. I do, my dad explains things to me. I believe, and I was taught to pray. And I was taught the commandments. Honor thy father. Truth prevails. It hurts a lot, deep inside, forever. And Bruno is born. Marrying and having children. Two children, both of them boys. They don’t bear my surname. What will happen to my surname? It has dawned on me that I was born during the dictatorship, and that there was a dictatorship in Argentina. I am 28 years old. And Bruno has just been born. And Gino is four. I’m a mother, I’m a teacher, and I study psychology. And my dad is in prison, and I’m beginning to understand. I doubt whether I really want to understand. The case is committed to trial, June 2008.
Clandestine detention centers, torture, death, degradation, theft, kidnappings, blindfolded prisoners, rapes, cells, violence, threats, agony, death flights, the ‘desaparecidos’. An alias, a Dr. K. A torturer with dad’s face. I can’t bear it anymore. No one hugs me, it’s silent and cold. And it hurts. Truth hurts, but injustice hurts even more. And impunity, so much more. And he is my dad. What will I say to my children? Gino tells me he misses him. I miss him, too. He no longer tickles me and makes me laugh. He no longer says he loves me.
Where’s my dad? The one who used to be good, who used to tickle me and make me laugh. The one who used to sing songs and tell me stories. The one who took me to fish and said I was his girlfriend. Where is he? Where are they? He tells me there was a war, that they are not 30,000. He speaks of subversive rebels, of Montoneros, of guerrillas, of a dirty war. He speaks of defending the fatherland. He’s not my dad. I can’t understand. I ask. I shouldn’t have asked. I don’t believe in anything anymore. I cry. I don’t want to pray. What did you do, dad? How could you? Why? Where are they? No answers, only questions. Awful silence and heart wrenching testimony. A trial. A dad sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity. The year is 2010. Justice.
I’m a mother, I’m a teacher, I’m a psychologist, I’m his daughter, he is my dad. He never spoke to me again. I shouldn’t have asked. I had to remain silent, not to think, not to feel, not to know. I had to obey. I couldn’t. I can’t help it. I’m not worthy of being his daughter, it seems. I’m not the worthy daughter of a genocidal criminal father. No. I have sinned in my thoughts and in my words, through what I have done, and what I have failed to do. Through my fault, my own fault, through my most grievous fault. I’m not praying anymore, fuck God. And everything else. I should honor my father, and he should not have killed. And I shall make spelling mistakes and write as I please.
Where’s my dad? The one who smelled of imported perfume on weekdays and smelled of barbecue and red wine on Sundays. Where is he? Why does he think I was targeted by activist groups at the School of Psychology? Why won’t he look me in the eye and tell me what he did? Why doesn’t he say where they are? Where’s my dad? Does he exist? The one who was good, who said that he loved me.
Why couldn’t I remain silent? Why did I insist on asking, on knowing? Why couldn’t I just shut my eyes, shut my mouth, shut my soul? Why does it hurt so much? Why did my dad become a policeman? How could he?
It hurts, it hurts so much. I don’t want this pain. I don’t want to love him, it’s wrong. It hurts.
Why is he angry? He can’t understand disobedience. Has he never been told that one should be disobedient in the face of things that hurt and are wrong? He didn’t understand. Disobeying criminal orders.
He didn’t know how to?
He didn’t want to?
Didn’t he think about his daughters when he kidnapped someone, when he tortured them? Didn’t he think about his grandchildren? About shame, about the stigma. What was he thinking? How could he remain unyielding before human suffering? How can a torturer have my dad’s face? Why? What should I say to my children? What will happen to my surname?
Where are they?
And mom? Where was she? A stony silence now that she’s dead, and also before. A silence that poisoned her blood. She never spoke, never asked, never cried. She only fell ill and died. She was dead even before her death, my mom. And now she is dead in death too, poor thing. She never spoke a word.
So, now what? More than forty years have passed. More than my entire life. More than twenty-five years without punishment. Almost fifteen years in prison. Why won’t he speak? Where are they? Let him tell what he knows, I know he knows. He knows I know he knows. He hides within his anger, his hatred. He won’t say that I’m his girlfriend anymore, he doesn’t tickle me and makes me laugh anymore. He says I am unworthy, a subversive rebel. He knows I know. He knows that he cannot fool me, that he could not fool justice, nor the society that condemned him. For being an oppressor, a genocidal murderer. He’s my dad, I’m her daughter.
He deceived me for some time, I trusted him, I trusted his affection, his tenderness. He said I was his girlfriend. We went fishing and he told me stories, he sang songs for me. I trusted him, he is my dad. How could I doubt my dad? How could he lie so much to me? Why won’t he tell what he knows? Why won’t he express what he feels? Does he feel anything? Why is he silent? It hurts me. Can’t he see it hurts me? Doesn’t he care? I’m not his girlfriend anymore, it seems, I’m not his little bunny anymore, he won’t take my hand or say that he loves me.
Where’s my dad, my children’s grandfather? The one who used to hug me, tickle me, and make me laugh.
I look for him. I miss him. I wait for him. I dream about him. I hug him in my dreams, and he speaks to me. And he tells what he knows. He knows but he remains silent. Why is he silent? We all know that he knows. In my dreams he speaks, and he hugs me too. And he cries. And we cry together.
Where’s my dad? The one who bought me “my pink sneakers,” the one who said I was his little bunny, tenderly remembering my first tiny teeth. Where should I look for him? My dad’s not there anymore.
He’s hiding. He’s angry. He hates. He represses. He represses himself.
Where’s my dad? In prison for torturing, for kidnapping, for annihilating. For repressing. His crimes are an attack against all humanity. Doesn’t he think about humanity, about human beings? About the mothers looking for their children, about the grandmothers looking for their grandchildren? Doesn’t he think about his daughters, about his grandchildren? What did my father think about when he tortured people? Did he really think that the fatherland should be defended in clandestine detention centers? Does he think that the fatherland should be defended by kidnapping and torturing? Is hiding the truth defending the fatherland?
He still thinks that those who have other ideals must be eliminated. Yes, that’s why he wants to eliminate me from the family. To declare me unworthy. To disown me, disinherit me. Can my dad disinherit me of the memories? Can he disinherit me of this story, of the shame, of the sorrow?
How miserable! He understood nothing, he understands nothing about life. He only understands about death. For him everything is hatred, anger, evil.
I’m such a fool to think, to have once felt a sincere affection from him. I’m such a fool to keep thinking that he might repent, tell what he knows (he knows I know he knows). I’m such a fool to keep dreaming of his hug and his sincere eyes. He’s such a fool not to realize, not to see me looking for him. Where’s my dad? Can’t he see that I’m his daughter? Can’t he see that I am looking for him? I’m such a fool to wait for him, to miss him. To wish I could hug him and to want him to hug me back.
He’s such a fool to shut himself in his cowardly, criminal silence and not repent for what he’s done.
So much hatred. So much evil. So much cruelty.
It hurts. It hurts so bad.
And he is my dad, and I’m his daughter.
Translated by Rafael Abuchedid / Edited by Cecilia Della Croce.