Martín Tregua was an aspiring writer in Buenos Aires who felt that he had to enjoy life to the fullest to improve his literary craft. Although he was an aloof young man and a newcomer to the city, he was constantly surrounded by young people who enjoyed the active night life of Buenos Aires as he did. His favorite pastime was to take long walks through the city, which exerted a passionate attraction over him that he could not understand.
Martín lived in a boardinghouse, where he had met his best friends: Jiménez, a government bureaucrat, and Anselmi, a law student. Another resident was Doctor Dervil, a well-read intellectual who engaged Martín in philosophical arguments on the purpose of life. Mercedes Miró was another close friend, a rich woman who gave Martín opportunities to meet interesting people from the Argentine upper classes.
Martín’s life changed on the day he saw a woman come into a flower shop as he was finishing a purchase. He did not dare to speak to her, although her striking beauty and her absentminded manner caused him to remember having seen her thirteen years earlier, shortly after his arrival in Buenos Aires as a law student. On that day he had fallen in love with her beauty and had followed her to her home. Eventually he had found out her name and other information: She was well-born but had married a poor lawyer in rebellion against her family. Her husband became rich, however, through dubious financial arrangements with international investors.
Unable to concentrate on writing his novel but eager to keep busy, Martín joined Jiménez and Anselmi in publishing a newspaper for radical young people. Other young intellectuals joined the group, which became quite heterogeneous, and their newspaper, El Navío
(the ship), achieved great success. The newspaper opened doors in the intellectual world of Buenos Aires to Martín. This came at a very good time because Mercedes Miró, with whom Martín had been in love, had asked that he stop seeing her. As a result, he had lost contact with the social class to which she had access.
Martín’s fame was short-lived, however. Because of irreconcilable ideological differences, Martín’s group decided to stop publication of El Navío
. Even his close friends found themselves too busy with their personal problems to spend time with him. Jiménez had fallen in love with Inés Boll, a young woman who had taken a room in his boardinghouse in the hope of escaping the physical abuses of her husband. When Jiménez started dating her, he disappeared from Martín’s life.
After the newspaper’s demise, Martín’s existentialist crisis became more acute. He could not stop thinking about the mysterious woman, who one night struck him with her car. Martín was not hurt. His monotony came to a sudden end the day that Jiménez was attacked by Inés’ husband. The fight left Jiménez blind. In terror, Martín left for Europe.
His trip took him through several European countries. His final destination was Brussels, where his friend Ferrier was a physician. Ferrier was a well-read intellectual who, like Martín, enjoyed the night life of bars and nightclubs, and he introduced Martín to a number of interesting people. In Brussels, Martín seemed to recover from his depression; he started to enjoy life again and finally finished writing his novel. His knowledge of philosophy was enriched through his contact with political thinkers, vocal antifascists, and budding communists. Homesick for Buenos Aires, however, Martín returned to Argentina.
There Martín was depressed again for several months until he met Gloria Bambil. Gloria was a very reserved young librarian, but eventually she showed some interest in Martín. When he found that Gloria had read his first novel, he convinced her to go out with him. They became very dependent on each other, despite Gloria’s insistence that she could not love anyone. Martín confronted her with his love, swearing that he could sense that they were in love. Gloriagave up and became his lover. She finally opened her heart to Martín and told him her personal background, including the fact that she had been abused by her father.
The mysterious woman came into Martín’s life again. One night, as Gloria and Martín were having dinner, Gloria saw the woman and commented on her beauty. Martín, who had not forgotten the woman, remembered having read that she had recently lost one of her teenage sons in a riding accident. Several days later, he saw her in the same florist shop as twelve years before. As a tribute to her inexplicable influence on him, he decided to dedicate his story to her. That story is the plot of The Bay of Silence