Donde todo se paga: Ricardo Piglia’s Blanco nocturno as a Lesson in Noir Economics

Erik Larson (Brigham Young University)


Ricardo Piglia’s 2010 novel Blanco nocturno rewrites the noir genre as an economy. Just as the novel’s initial murder is the dark result of an expansive and disperse market conspiracy (thus alluding to Argentina’s own problematic insertion into the neoliberal economy at the beginning of the 1970s), so too is crime an excess that overflows within the economy of detection. In this sense, crime and its converse, justice, constitute a transaction wherein the crime introduces an imbalance, much like the lavish excess of the potlatch, and justice realizes a counter-payment that supposedly restores equilibrium. However, Piglia’s use of the noir mode complicates such a balancing of accounts by casting a noir detective—Croce—who is unable to close the case, ever afflicted by unresolved loose ends and other phantasmal remainders that disrupt the economy of detection. Besides merely questioning the conventions of more traditional crime fiction, such failure has allegorical implications. The detective’s problems with deduction are able to stand in for the contradictions of neoliberal capitalism, a supposedly hyper-rational system that ultimately unravels itself.

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