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Deposit scholarly works such as posters, presentations, conference papers or white papers. Skip to Content. Toggle navigation Carolina Digital Repository. Help Contact Us Login. You do not have access to any existing collections. You may create a new collection. MLA Chandler, Keri. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, APA Chandler, K. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Chicago Chandler, Keri. Last Modified March 22, Creator Chandler, Keri Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Romance Studies Abstract Since a woman's nature, or physical and mental character, was viewed similarly to that of the natural world, the Western European binary construct of nature versus culture is correlated to the discourse on women and their social roles throughout history. Through the study of Spanish women writers' ties to natural elements and female identity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, their poetry reveals intimate connections as well as conflicts which demonstrate shifts in the socio-political climate.
He continued to work as a journalist while writing fiction until when his home was bombed by a right-wing terror squad. He fled Uruguay, first to Spain, and then to Mexico where he remained until his death. His novel El Infierno and published in English translation under a shortened form of its Spanish title El color que el infierno me escondiera depicts the uprising of urban guerillas in Montevideo which led up to the military coup.
Eduardo Galeano b. In Galeano was arrested by the military junta, then sent into exile, first to Argentina, and then when that country fell to a rightist regime to Spain. He returned to Uruguay in His writings are a mixture of fiction, non-fiction, and unclassifiable works. Among the last is his grand trilogy Memory of Fire , a history of the Americas—focusing on Latin America—told in the form of miniature vignettes shifting constantly from scene to scene across the hemisphere. An earlier work of his, Open Veins of Latin America , examines the same history with a more analytical approach.
The book received worldwide attention three years ago when the late President Hugo Chavez gave a copy of it to President Barack Obama during a summit meeting. Cristina Peri-Rossi b. She studied literature in Uruguay and had begun her writing career when the dictatorship came to power in Peri-Rossi went into exile in Spain and began writing against the Uruguayan government.
She writes both verse and prose from a feminist and leftist perspective. The Ship of Fools is considered her most significant prose work. It is a broad satire of modern society through the eyes of a traveler who is always the outsider. Carolina De Robertis was born to an Uruguayan family in England and makes her permanent home in California, but has spent time in Uruguay and has made South America the setting for her novels. She has published two works of historical fiction focusing on women: The Invisible Mountain , set in Uruguay, and Perla , set in Argentina.
This is totally fabulous. I will add this thread to the home page and post a note on the message board, and let's all start thinking about what we're going to read. Here are books from my TBR, some of which, I hope to read for this theme read. Of course, I will peruse the suggestions above for additional ideas, particularly from countries not already represented on my TBR.
The posts above are just beautiful. I feel I must participate in this challenge, and I'm sorry it doesn't start until October.
Fantastic stories. Here's a list of female authors from Latin American countries, to be expanded. I can only recommend the bolded works, this isn't meant to be all inclusive, and I apologize if they turn out to have moved somewhere else. Oblivion Teresa de la Parra mentioned above. Rebecca, thanks for mentioning this thread on the message board. That's quite a TBR you have. Anoplophora, welcome. You're certainly going to be busy if the Anoplophora is your area of study! Thanks for your detailed list all additions and suggestions are welcome. You certainly don't have to wait until October to start reading, just jump in.
Lovely thread. I am looking forward to the quarter. My plan is to concentrate on Colombia. I want to read more Garcia Marquez. Also, I just read The Sound of things Falling as an early reviewer, and really recommend it. I am going to try to find some of Vaquez's earlier work as well. And maybe also Laura Restrepo. Anopiophora, what a great list of works by women writers -- I'll have to peruse that too. Some of those books have been on it since the 70s or 80s. Obviously, I won't read all of these now, and may try to concentrate on the more obscure after all, I know I'll always read MVL.
It is thanks to LT and my system of tagging by country of the author that I could even know I have some of these books -- now, of course, I have to find them on my shelves! The group often goes through periods of inactivity, so I am sure that it would benefit from your comments, insights and lively discussion too. Quito must be the only place that has such a gargoyle. There are many details of local fauna and flora.
Thanks so much for this link, it looks like a great group. I see you live in Caracas, so you will be able to provide more of a sense of immediacy to your comments than many of us. Looking forward to your contributions. I had a great time looking at pictures of Quito and its architecture. The railway really inspired me too.
There is a travel article in The Guardian on Ecuador and the thought of the trip from Quito to Quayaquil has been added to my dreams of the Trans Siberian Railway and the Orient Express, as well as the train across Norway to the coast. I wish someone would come out with a new edition of it. Sorry, for any cross-posting, SassyLassy - on a slow connection at present.
What a wonderful introduction! The amount of work both of you did is amazing. I have done so little reading in this area that your research will be of great help. I also read Love in the Time of Cholera a very long time ago, but I remember it as a wonderful read. I'll begin getting ready for this read by researching the some of the books you've listed above. Thank you for the research and the lovely pictures! This has clearly taken a lot of work to compile and I can see that you have gone out of your way to provide something much more refreshing than the typical view of the dominant media.
Somehow I was not aware that this South America read was going on, but now I'm enthused by your introduction to pick something! Thank you! Together, they give a broad and thoughtful overview of the region's literature from Columbus to the present. Many, myself included, find Facundo to be a bit of a slog, and a lot of people read the first four chapters, including the one where he basically creates the paradigm for the character of the gaucho, and call it a day.
I think if you can access this translation at your local library, it's really worth checking out, perhaps for the introduction alone. Also, the so-called "Telluric Narratives," or Novelas de la tierra , are worth returning to. I think it's fair to say that they were somewhat forgotten, or looked down upon, after Carlos Fuentes shat on them at the beginning of La nueva novela hispanoamericana His beef was that, in their obsession with describing the Latin American land "they were swallowed up by the jungle! While that may have been true at the time, I think that they've aged rather well.
Moving backwards in time, some of the 19th century classics would be fun to read in comparison with 19th century European and North American literature. The categories--Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism--aren't easily mappable onto the continent's literature, and it is problematic to speak of European influence in many cases for a number of reasons It's also, that I can think of, the first continental bestseller in terms of Latin American novels.
Anyway, I just think that going back to the "pre-Boom" classics of Latin American literature is worth the effort, because there's a lot of great books that were, in a way, condemned by the Boom authors as representing an "immature" stage in the region's literature. Now, in , that judgment carries far less weight, although their reasons for making it are understandable.
All the books I've mentioned should be available in translation, although it might be hard to find Rivera's The Vortex , as I believe it's been out of print for some time. One final note: if you're into poetry and literary criticism, Josefina Ludmer's The Gaucho Genre is awesome! Thanks to Steven and Sassy for providing superb background information and author recommendations, and to everyone else for their additional information. You haven't read Years of Solitude?? You are in for a treat, IMO. I think that you will also like House of the Spirits.
I re-read it recently, and it held up well, even though I have been disappointed with Allende's more recent works. Nice list, Darryl. I reread One Hundred Years of Solitude a few years ago, having read it back in the 70s, after reading the first and so far only? I also reread Love in the Time of Cholera , which I liked better. I finished Mean Women by Alicia Borinsky , which was more a stream of images and scenes strung together than a story with a beginning and an end.
The repeated symbols tie the book together. A published review describe it as "horrifying yet humorous," but as always happens for me, I only get the horror and none of the humor. The Spanish title is "Mina Cruel" but I don't understand enough Spanish to know how that sounds, or if represents the book better than "Mean Women". Five stars, fantastic book. Quotes: "Can we come out of our lethargy and do the same? Forget about our bunions, the gas bill, this itching and then come up with an expression of eternity so that the whole neighborhood can know, join in, and make the tragedy greater?
By the way he will be years old next September and last I knew he was still going strong. Maybe the most irreverent Latin American writer of all time and a big hero to Roberto Bolano--well and to me too. I'll also mention a pretty good Argentine Mempo Giardinelli. Back after over two weeks without a computer.
I found some books from South America on my travels and managed to read two from that area; reviews to follow once I get back to normal life. Thanks to everyone for the additional suggestions. I suspect some are more difficult to find than others. If you have that many on this area, I can only imagine that total! I just started The Green House today. Looking forward to your thoughts on it and some of those other books. Thanks for the sad update about Mutis and thanks for the link. Ninety is pretty impressive, as is the one hundred mentioned by lriley.
I'll look for that one. I knew there were a lot of them, but had no idea just how many until I started working on this quarter. Unfortunately, not many of them seem to have been translated into English, although I did see quite a few translations into French and Italian. Too many people to remember, too many plots. I'll be really interested on your opinion, I might have to give it another try. Break them down into lists. It helps me anyway to keep track of even obscure people, events and places in the book. That sheet of paper can also serve as a book marker.
A lot of his work is topical to current event but also Chilean history--he has a wonderfully ribald streak. He loves to play the nasty self-centered old coot or the demented religious crank when discoursing on these things. Not only was he Bolano's favorite poet--he's mine as well--Zbigniew Herbert comes in second. The Cervantes Prize Wikipedia page is actually another really good resource for those interested in Hispanic literatures. It was invented the year after Franco's death again, according to Wikipedia , and is something akin to a Nobel Prize in Literature for writers who write in Spanish.
I also neglected to mention one extremely important category in Latin American literature: Modernismo. Sometimes it seems like they do that just to recognize that they're "hip" to the literatures of Latin America. Anyway, when people talk about aesthetic modernism, they are using a term that's more or less of Latin American origin correct me if I'm wrong, these disputes over words and their origins are always tricky. I'm not really up to date on any particularly recommendable English language translations of modernista poetry.
His Azul is often thought of as the beginning of the movement. Delmira Agustini, the Uruguayan poet, is also well worth our time. I don't think a book has made me laugh so hard since then. The author does not know to what literary form the book belongs: narrative, essay, epic poem, chronicle, testimony. Perhaps it belongs to all or none. The author relates what has happened, the history of America, and above all, the history of Latin America; and he has sought to do it in such a way that the reader should feel that what has happened happens again when the author tells it.
It consists of over vignettes, most about a half page in length. The earliest ones relate the various creation myths of the Native American peoples, from Tierra del Fuego to the Bering Strait. From that we jump to and the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World.
The Project Gutenberg eBook of Modern Poets and Poetry of Spain, by James Kennedy.
Each vignette is given a year and a location, and it is footnoted to show the source. They are in chronological order from to , but the locations jump from place to place. The perspective is sometimes that of a conquistador, a churchman or a political leader, but more often we see history through the eyes of the Indians, the peasants, the guerrilla fighters, and the slum dwellers. Occasionally the narrative jumps across oceans for a bit of context: the Gutenberg Bible, the invention of the electric light, or the stardom of Marilyn Monroe.
Galeano's sympathies are clearly with the downtrodden and the disenfranchised: the Indians, the slaves, the poor, and women. With only a few breaks, the book is a chronicle of conquest, oppression, racial prejudice, exploitation and heroic resistance. What would otherwise be a story of unrelenting horror and despair is elevated to the sublime by Galeano's language and humanity. Each vignette is a poem in prose, uplifting in its beauty and nobility even while describing scenes of murder and torture.
There is no attempt on Galeano's part to give a balanced account or to analyze what he describes. Dictators have no virtues; socialist revolutionaries have no vices and are forgiven their failings. When a liberal government fails to live up to its promises, the blame is always placed on foreign or corporate interference. Some may object to this black and white presentation of history, but one might argue that the privileged have had their say for centuries, so it's only fair to give the disenfranchised a turn at the podium.
Given the author's emphasis on the cultural heritage of the American Natives, it's surprising that he omits any pre-Columbian history except for the creation myths--perhaps he felt that stories of Inca, Maya and Aztec conquests would weaken the reader's sympathy for them. But I found the biggest weakness in the work was the lack of an index. The stories of some persons and places are often told in vignettes dozens of pages apart, and it would be nice to be able to locate an earlier piece for review. Memory of Fire is a magnificent and incredibly moving account of Latin American history and culture.
It is rich in detail and human interest, but ties together themes from all over the hemisphere to give the reader a sense of context and perspective. This would be an excellent place to begin a study of the history of the Americas. The Green House was definitely hard to follow, but I loved it. I had a smile on my face the whole time I was reading it and I couldn't help thinking about the fun Vargas Llosa must have had writing it. What a great book to start off this thread and great review too. Something to refer to again and again as you read, but I agree with you about works like this that don't have an index.
It's so useful. This thread is off to a great start! I really enjoyed it. It's an early work, and short, but definitely feels like GGM. As regards Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy it's pretty much a historical synopsis of South and Central American history. I imagine people with strong conservative leanings would find Galeano's views on a lot of things distasteful. The truth is though that brutality by whatever authorities are in power has been a very common occurrence since the Spanish and Portugese started colonizing these areas of the world--as it has been in Africa and Asia and assorted other colonies with the British, French, Belgians and Germans.
New creations of aristocracies aping European colonial values giving birth to countless dictatorships--a small number of privileged gaining control of the wealth--the law--the army--the apparatus of government when their colonial masters fade away. The 20th century South American dictatorships abetted in the second half of the century by the CIA were violent in the extreme towards their own people whenever challenged.
I'm not sure how you can give a balanced account of Trujillo's reign--or Pinochet's or Somoza's or Videla's. It's one thing to kill your enemies--it's another thing to turn them over to sadists to torture them for pleasure--another thing again to go after innocents related to your enemies. And again it's another thing to disappear dead bodies in the thousands.
To throw them out of cargo planes either dead or alive into the ocean. All this is a too often occurring part of the South American history. His aim was to study the works of Dante, Machiavelli and various Renaissance artists. All was going according to plan when one day, passing a small gallery, he spotted an exhibit of photographs titled "Natives of the Amazon Forest". Entering the display, he was immediately taken back in time, not just three years to when he had last been in the very settlements depicted, but thirty years to his student days in the mid s.
At that time his closest friend had been Saul Zuratos, a fellow student. Two things distinguished Saul: his unforgettable appearance and his profound belief that the indigenous peoples of the Amazon should be left in a state of nature, free of contamination by outside influences. How does one study a culture one can't approach? Should development of Peru's natural resources be halted to accommodate the Amazonian tribes? Where do these tribes fit in a Marxist structure? Questions like these were the stuff of their student discussions. The answers put the narrator and his friend Saul on different paths, so that almost thirty years had now passed since they last met.
This is a multilayered novel with several different threads. There is the main narrator reflecting on his own career, and on Saul and what might have happened to him. There is the tribal storyteller walking from one far flung settlement to the next, keeping alive the beliefs and stories of the Machiguena, "the people who walk".
Finally there is Tasurinchi, "the all-powerful, the breather-out of people", living one life after another, telling the stories of his people to the storyteller to tell to the tribe. Vargas Llosa weaves it all together, from the myths of the Machiguenga and their struggle to remain a distinct people; and the story of Saul, son of a Jewish immigrant, haunted by the spectre of ethnic annihilation.
Magically, what emerges is a novel addressing the very roots of identity. In the highest, Inkite, lived Tasurinchi, the all-powerful, the breather-out of people, and through it, bathing fertile banks with fruit-laden trees, flowed the Meshiareni, or river of immortality, that could be dimly made out from the earth, for it was the Milky Way.
Below Inkite floated the weightless region of clouds, or Menkoripatsa, with its transparent river, the Manaironchaari. The earth, Kipacha, was the abode of the Machiguengas, a wandering people. Beneath it was the gloomy region of the dead, almost all of whose surface was covered by the river Kamabiria, plied by the souls of the deceased before taking up their new abode. And last of all, the lowest and most terrible region, that of the Gamaironi, a river of black waters where there were no fish, and of wastelands, where there was nothing to eat, either. This was the domain of Kientibakori, creator of filthy things, the spirit of evil and the chief of a legion of demons, the kamagarinis.
The sun of each region was less powerful and less bright than the one above. The sun of Inkite was motionless. The hesitant sun of earth came and went, its survival mythically linked to the conduct of the Machiguengas. It turns out the vessel is bound westward across the Atlantic, hoping to find a southern passage to the East Indies.
Instead they find only primitive, forbidding lands. Going ashore, the sailors are ambushed, and all but the cabin boy are killed. The cabin boy is taken prisoner, but treated with a strange degree of kindness and deference, even as he watches the Indians butcher and eat his shipmates. He lives among the cannibals for ten years, but it is only sixty years later as he his writing his memoirs that he begins to understand why he was treated the way he was.
The Witness is a meditation upon reality as we perceive it, memory, death, and the role of language in shaping our view of the universe. The novel opens with the narrator's lament that we are but insignificant motes in the vastness of the universe, and our lives but an ephemeral glimmer on the earth. And all we know of our lives are fleeting, fragile memories. Each culture finds its own ways of coping with these harsh truths. In piecing together his memories and what he understood of their language, the former cabin boy gradually begins to form a notion of the Indians' world view, one that is radically different from the Europeans', but with just as much claim to validity.
The Witness is a novel that is both thoughtful and suspenseful, both brutal and lyrical. There are many memorable scenes, many passages worth re-reading, and many ideas worth contemplation. And continuing my Garcia Marquez quest: The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez Luis Alejandro Velasco was a Colombian sailor who, in , survived 10 days at sea on a raft after an accident, caused by naval negligence, which killed 8 others. A Vargas Llosa I hadn't read!
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa Although I'm a big fan of Vargas Llosa, and although this book has been on my shelves for 30 years I still wrote my name and the date in books back in June , I never read it until now. And what a delightful book it is!
Vargas Llosa intersperses semi-autobiographical chapters about the year-old narrator's life and his budding romance with his year-old divorced aunt by marriage with chapters that the reader eventually realizes are episodes in the radio serials written by a Bolivian scriptwriter recently hired by the radio station at which the narrator works.
In the Aunt Julia chapters, the narrator, whose name is Mario but is generally called Marito or Varguesita, wants above all to be a writer; nonetheless, he is somewhat lackadaisically going to law school to please his family, while working as news editor and writer at the radio station and hanging out with his friends. He lives in Lima with his grandparents, as his parents are in the US, and spends a great deal of time with members of his large extended family.
And that is how he meets Julia, who has come from Bolivia to Lima to visit her sister, the wife of one of the narrator's uncles, to recover from her divorce and find a new husband. One of the delights of these sections are the narrator's sense of fun, as well as romance and responsibility, and some parts are almost laugh-out-loud funny, especially as this part of the plot builds to its conclusion. I also enjoyed the descriptions of how the radio serials are recorded, and the efforts of the sound effects man in particular. The characters Vargas Llosa creates are wonderful. The chapters representing the work by the master, and eccentric, Bolivian scriptwriter, Pedro Camacho, are more puzzling.
They start off as fairly standard soap opera fare -- romance with a whiff of incest, rape, etc. At one point I was confused because a name seemed to be changed, and gradually from the narrator's chapters , I learned that the radio listeners were confused by this too, as characters seem to be moving from one serial to another, changing lives, professions, and more, and dying in one serial to be resurrected in another. Through this, the reader sees Pedro Camacho's breakdown before the listeners and the radio station owners start discussing it. Although both the narrator chapters and the serial chapters move along at a brisk pace, with well drawn characters and well developed plots, there is another aspect to this book, and that is the nature of writing.
The narrator frequently discusses stories he is trying to write, and of course is fascinated by how Camacho works, so part of the story is the portrait of the aspiring writer as a young man. And this is probably semi-autobiographical as well. The last chapter, which I felt a little tacked on, reveals what happens when the older author, who has been living in Europe, visits Peru and runs into some of his old friends, some who have risen higher in the world, and some who have fallen.
It ties up some loose ends, but I felt the novel could have ended before this. All in all, this book was a lot of fun. I've started a thread for your ideas for making the theme reads even better. It is "Posthumous" for the simple reason that to write his whole life's story, a man must wait until he is dead so the story is complete.
He begins by telling us of his death in his native Brazil, in , at the age of a childless bachelor, so we know ahead of time the fruitless outcome of the love affairs which will dominate his memoirs. The narrator regularly steps back from the narrative to address the reader as audience, accomplice, or adversary. At one point he laments: "I'm beginning to regret this book. Not that it bores me, I have nothing to do and, really, putting together a few meager chapters for that other world is always a task that distracts me from eternity a little.
But the book is tedious, it has the smell of the grave about it; it has a certain cadaveric contraction about it, a serious fault, insignificant to boot because the main defect of the book is you, reader. You're in a hurry to grow old and the book moves slowly. You love direct and continuous narration, a regular and fluid style, and this book and my style are like drunkards, they stagger left and right, they walk and stop, mumble, yell, cackle, shake their fists at the sky, stumble and fall There are chapters with typographical flourishes such as dialogue consisting of nothing but punctuation marks, a chapter with a title and no text, and chapters that are simply brief soliloquies.
Do I have to explain everything? I should also add for this group's interest that the picture it presents of 19th century Brazil, seen from the perspective of the upper middle class, is remarkably like that of 19th century Europe. If it were not for the occasional mention of slavery, you might easily think it was set in Lisbon, Madrid, Milan or Vienna instead of Rio de Janeiro.
I remember I too was laughing out loud reading it, but nothing of the darkerside of the story. For the first time the theme reads of this group overlap my own world tour. Lucio is also surrounded by meddlesome neighbors who offer less than helpful advice on his troubled marriage, and his only escape is to his room, where he earns a profitable living as a repairer of clocks. A friend of Diana's, noting her difficult behavior, encourages Lucio to have her committed to a nearby mental institution, as the man is a close friend of the head physician there, who he thinks can help her. Lucio reluctantly does so, but almost immediately regrets his decision.
When she is released weeks later she is a changed woman, happy and full of life and love for her husband, but Lucio realizes that something isn't quite right, even though likes the "new" Diana considerably better. He visits the friend who recommended Diana's institutionalization, then returns to the asylum, where he makes a discovery that is shocking to him and a threat to his marriage and to the residents of his community.
Asleep in the Sun is a surreal and allegorical novel, mixed with wry humor, menace and a touch of magical realism. Part of the reason may be that I read the description of the book on its back cover, which negatively influenced my approach to the novel, as other reviewers have said. It was an moderately enjoyable read, albeit a disappointing one, and I may give it another chance in the future to see if I like it better on a second reading.
This is a remarkable book, and I hardly know where to begin to talk about it. Starting as a seemingly straightforward tale of the hugely rich and aristocratic Ventura family, consisting of seven sisters and brothers, their spouses, and their 33 surviving children, it quickly becomes convoluted, bizarre, disturbing, comic, perverse, shocking, postmodern, and puzzling. At the same time, Donoso has said that this book was his response to the coup by Pinochet and that he has even included word-for-word excerpts from both Pinochet and Allende in this article on the Dalkey Archive website.
The story begins at the Ventura's house in the country, Marulanda, where the parents are preparing to take their huge retinue of servants and go for a day-long excursion to a fabulous woodland glade and waterfall, leaving the cousins, ranging in age from 6 to 16, locked inside the "park" that surrounds the the house and separates it from the grassy plains and native populations outside with hundreds of metal lances tipped with gold and embedded in cement beneath the ground.
The servants are not just servants but, led by the huge Majordomo, enforcers of the parents' rule over the children, doling out cruel punishments that leave no marks. And the native people have been conquered by the Venturas' ancestors and now work for them, mining and laminating the gold that is the source of the their wealth.
The white people all believe the natives are cannibals, and threaten the children that they will be eaten if they misbehave. So the stage is set for intrigue and trouble when all the adults leave: all the adults but one. For Uncle Adriano, who married the totally frivolous and somewhat slow-witted Balbina Ventura, and who is the father of 9-year-old Wenceslao, has been enclosed in a straitjacket, drugged, and locked in a tower ever since he "went crazy" because of a truly horrifying and shocking event.
A doctor, he was the only family member to have any relationship with the native people. Wenceslao is determined to take advantage of the absence of the adults, which it develops has been engineered by a group of the children, to free his father. Other groups of children are engaged in plots of their own, and most of them believe the adults will not return at the end of the day as they have promised. Some of them try to leave.
That's about all I can tell to set the stage, both because I don't want to spoil all the surprises and because there is so much else going on in this novel, or "fable," as the author, who intervenes occasionally to explain what he is doing with the plot and the characters, persists in describing the work. Towards the end, he also notes that the characters are "emblems" and "a-psychological.
First of all, there is an artificial feel to a lot of the book. The "play" allow them to use flowery language, flirt and plot, and remove themselves from the reality of life in the summer house. Further, the house is filled with trompe l'oeil frescoes and wall decorations; the highly liveried servants melt into the walls, and the people on the walls spring to life. There are also revelations about the library and other aspects of the house that are not what they appear to be.
Tying in with this, there are people who are blind, or practically blind, or dependent on very strong eyeglasses, and there is a whole network of tunnels beneath the house for reasons revealed later in which people have to find their way by feeling the edges. Then, there is the whole idea of cannibalism. Whether the native people ever were cannibals is never quite clear, but the idea that they "still" are serves the function of keeping the children in place.
At the same time, the mothers are always saying things to the little children like "oh, you're so delicious" and "oh, I could just eat you up with kisses. There is also a theme of holding back nature. The lance "walls" of the park hold back the grasses of the plain, but every year in the fall there are winds that bring what are called "thistledown blizzards" that make it almost impossible to breathe.
And many of the tunnels under the house are brimming with the unstoppable growth of wild mushrooms. The second half of the novel relates to the return of the adults, after what seems to them only a day. Denying the reality that appears before they even reach the house, they dispatch the servants to return to the house and straighten everything out while they return to their homes in the capital until order is restored. This section gets really wild and crazy, with turmoil, fighting, cruelty, bravery, and revelation after revelation; at this point, "reality" becomes even more tenuous than it has already been, and the author returns more often to discuss his choices.
So what to make of this book? I was really impressed by Donoso's ideas and imagination. I was less able to detect the political ideas; although it was possible to see the servants, on their return, as the army, it was a lot less clear who other groups of people might represent. My conclusion is that this is, as Donoso, said, a "response" to the Pinochet coup and crackdown and that he is not trying to make complete analogies.
I think I spent too much time trying to figure out who might stand for whom and not enough just experiencing the novel. Although I've written at length, I've only scratched the surface of this complicated book. If I didn't have so many other books I want to read, I would start it all over again. This fun novella is both a mystery story and a gentle parody of a mystery story, with poisons, atmospheric events, people who aren't who they seem to me, a dead bird, literary allusions, and lots of subtle humor.
It begins as a somewhat pompous and self-satisfied doctor travels to a remote Argentine beach resort, owned by his cousin who, he points out, owes him money so he gets to stay without charge. He encounters a group of other visitors, one of whom is poisoned to death that very night. Soon, everyone is a suspect for one reason or another; a vicious storm that blows sand everywhere starts up; and more mysterious things begin to happen.
This was a quick read, and a fun one. Note : There is a problem with this book that LT staff are trying to solve, in that my copy doesn't link up with the other copies of the book and the Bioy Casares author page doesn't show that I own it. So, above, I have provided an HTML link to the page that shows my copy of the book; if you do a regular touchstone, it goes to a German edition of the book, which is the only one the Bioy Casares author page shows, not all the others.
It also isn't letting me save my review on the book page. Aira is known for his novellas -- I've read one and have others on my shelves -- so this book, at pages, is a tome for him. Although I hesitate to generalize from the one other Aira I've read, An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter , I think the shorter length works better for him, as there were definitely sections that dragged a little. And this book was more dependent on plot which, again probably unfairly generalizing, is not necessarily his strong point.
Also, I found his depiction of the Indians a little grating, although I realize that they were partly described through the lens of the late 19th century protagonist and partly symbolic in a philosophical way. Nonetheless, Aira shines in his sly humor, his absurdity, his stunning descriptions of nature, his imagination, his light-hearted philosophical digressions, and his love of language.
The story begins with a somewhat extraneous look at the activities of the Restorer of the Laws, i. He then gives his blessing, and his best horse, to the English naturalist, Clarke, who is mounting an expedition to the pamaps to look for the extremely rare, and perhaps nonexistent, Legibrereian hare which, it turns out, may not even be living creature. The rest of the novel covers Clarke's travels through the pampas with Carlos, a year-old would-be artist, and Gauna, a taciturn guide who, it develops, is on a quest of his own. In the course of their travels, they encounter three very different groups of Mapuche Indians, get to know several individuals in each group, get caught up in various plots and "wars" without generally understanding what they're about , reveal aspects of their pasts including that both Clarke and Carlos were adopted , and ultimately experience several plot revelations, at least one of which was obvious to me about halfway through the book.
But this is only the plot, and the plot is the least important part of the book. As mentioned, Aira loves philosophical digressions, and some of the ideas he explores in this book are simultaneity, identity and twinhood, transformation, continuity and time, and myth and reality. In a way, the book is all about story-telling: the myths groups live by, how these myths differ from "scientific" and "rational" explanations, the imaginary world versus the real world, the stories we tell others about ourselves and the stories other tell us, and, of course, the story that is this novel.
I do think Aira is playing with the reader at times, especially in the way he somewhat ridiculously ties up a lot of loose ends in the final chapter. Thinking about a story Gauna told him about why he wanted to come to the pamaps, Clarke muses: "He had to admit it was a very solid and plausible story, but that was entirely due to the fact that it included all or nearly all the details of what had happened in reality; by the same token, there must be other stories that did the same, even though they were completely different.
Everything that happened, isolated and observed by an interpretive judgment, or even simply by the imagination, became an element that could be combined with any number of others. Personal invention was responsible for creating the overall structure, for seeing to it that these elements formed unities. If it weren't so much fun to read him, and if he weren't such a good writer, I might find this irritating.
I think this book was a little bloated, but I enjoyed it, and I will read more Aira. The stories are set in Macondo, with references to characters we will later meet in One Hundred Years of Solitude. I found all of the stories to be sad and sweet. Garcia Marquez has such a feeling of love for his community, and that permeates all of his work. This book focuses on the difficulties that individuals and communities face when living in a corrupt and repressive regime. In this story, the Colonel, a lovely, gentle, older man and his wife are slowly starving while they wait for a promised pension, which, of course, never arrives.
Hello banjo; You've just read two of the books in my pile and offered me encouragement to dig them out. I falling sadly behind here. When Triste's mother dies, he is left in a Buenos Aires slum, completely reliant on himself. An initial attempt at life as an underage pool shark ends painfully. However, the attention it garnered provides a new line of work. Triste finds himself working under the direction of Chaves the priest. The work is infrequent, but pays a handsome retainer, well beyond anything he could earn elsewhere.
Slowly but surely the pair are drawn into the world of Peron's Argentina. Over time, as their work becomes more serious, the roles are reversed and Triste finds himself leading the now lapsed Chaves. Their work remains episodic and random, always directed from above. Neither has the knowledge or skills to progress to planning work in an increasingly fragmented and factional world. Eventually the day comes when the pair must face up to the extent of their involvement and what it has meant for themselves and others.
They make plans to leave both their work and Argentina, but if their lives have taught them anything, it is that life does not go as planned. Vazquez Rial writes in a style that flows one minute and is staccato the the next, perfectly mirroring the rhythm of Triste's life.
Conversations are few, brief and direct. The writing is stark and to the point, wasting no emotion on a character who lived free of emotional entanglement himself.
In his introduction, the author says that in writing this book from exile, he learned the history of "the other", who played such a role in his life in Argentina. Triste is a character we do not often see in literature, but an important one in so much of history. I found the "The Queen of Paramaribo" by Clark Accord or Paramaribon kuningatar , no English transaltion seem to be available from the list above. It was the only Suriname book easily available here.
So I had no real expectations but the novel turned out to be surprisingly nice read. The author explains that the character of Maxi Linder in his novel is build on known facts and anecdotes and that he used the names of other known prostitutes from the era but inventing the characters. The writing and translation was a little clumsy but in every other respect this was an enjoyable read with nice touch of what I'd imagine Suriname was in the past century.
Maxi Linder was an interesting and self-contradicting person: seductive, competitive, bad mannered, violent, and very very generous. She charged a high price for her services and became wealthy but she also fed her neighbours in need, provided for the education of their children. A real character! Structurally The Queen Most of the book is told from the point of view of other people who influenced Maxi or were influenced by her. The chapters are titled with names and tell their mutual story or their encounter.
Other unconventional yet functional solution was that the author was not trying to tell everything: several years were often omitted. Things had happened and conditions changed between chapters. This might be disturbing if the book were a real biography but not in this case. Not really great literature but as I didn't really expect anything, the novel actually was a lot better thatn, um I expected.
There are two days left to vote for next year's theme reads! If you haven't done so already, please come over to the voting thread and let your voice be counted! And today is the last day to vote for next year's theme reads! If you haven't done so already, please come to the voting thread and cast your votes!
Ribeiro set himself the task of depicting fictionally the impact of western "civilization" on a remote tribe of Indians, the Mairun, deep in the forested regions of the Amazon.
October - December 2013: South American Literature
To do so, he mixes sections that tell of the Mairun origin myths and customs with stories told by people as varied as a Mairun who almost became a Roman Catholic priest, the Mairun guide of souls, other Mairuns, various missionaries, a half-Mairun river trader, an investigator, and others, and it was sometimes difficult to keep track of who was who.
The novel begins with the discovery of a dead white woman on the beach by the river, who has apparently died while giving birth to twins. Or was she murdered? By the end of the book, we have some idea of how she got there. As a Mairun, he is destined to become the next chieftain; the old one has just died although apparently he didn't know this when he decided to leave Rome and return home. This is the broadest outline of the plot, but the plot is just there to hang the ideas on.
A lot of this book is about religion, both Mairun beliefs and Catholic and evangelical Protestant beliefs, and some of this, especially the Catholic material was hard for me to follow, especially since a lot of it was given in Latin and I didn't want to type it all in to Google Translate! The novel's sections are named largely with Christian concepts: Antiphony, Homily, Gospel, and Corpus. I feel I missed a lot of the Christian references and ideas. On the other hand, the parts about the Mairun life and mythology were the richest and most compelling, and often beautifully written and often quite earthy too , although occasionally I was very aware that an anthropologist was writing the book!
As far as I can tell, the Mairun are a made-up tribe, but I'm sure Ribeiro took ideas about customs, kinship, and origin myths from indigenous people he had studied. I was quite taken with the guide of souls, the complex way the Mairun organize their intergroup relationships, and various individuals and their interactions. His struggle is a metaphor for one of the ways the indigenous cultures were destroyed; more overt methods make an appearance later on in the book.
This is a complex and complicated novel, and I don't feel it entirely works. But I am glad I read it, and I'm still thinking about it. These books are beautifully designed and printed on very nice paper, but this book at least was marred by careless proofreading e. The results are in! Please go to this post on the voting thread to see them and to comment on the suggestions for next year's theme reads.
Nonfiction, but I thought I'd post this here anyway -- from Brazil. Backlands: The Canudos Campaign by Euclides da Cunha I've wanted to read this book ever since I read The War at the End of the World because Vargas Llosa took the story told here, of the war between the followers of a charismatic religious leader in the backlands of northern Brazil and the army of the relatively young Brazilian republic, as the starting point of his novel.
Da Cunha, a journalist who had been in the army himself, was what we now would call "embedded" with the army at the very end of the multi-campaign war; the rest of this lengthy and at times overblown book is the result of his detailed research although, in the fashion of the time? And it is when da Cunha gets into the human makeup of the backlands that he gets into trouble with a modern reader, for da Cunha's "scientific" racism is vile.
He ranks the races "evolutionarily" guess which one is most evolved! I suppose in some ways this "scientific" perspective was a step up from thinking of people of color as animals, and certainly it has to be taken in the context of the time, but it's pretty hard to read. Da Cunha also dabbles in psychology. On the other hand, the geology and natural history of the region were fascinating: the backlands are incredibly rugged, remote, desolate, and alternately mountainous and desert-like.
I did feel that his geological writing cried out for maps, and I've spent a lot of time searching the web, without success, for photos that do justice to the dramatic nature of the mountains da Cunha describes, as well as for photos of the plants. These sections did seem a little endless, especially without illustrations and maps. The second part of the book covers the Brazilian army's four campaigns against Antonio Conselheiro the counselor who, through his preaching, attracted thousands of the poor and outcast for various reasons to the town of Canudos and built a religious community there.
Da Cunha attempts to figure out Conselheiro's psychology, and he covers some of the reasons the powers-that-be in Brazil were so outraged by what might seem to be a localized cult, including that Brazil had only recently become a republic and had to be constantly on the lookout for monarchist rebellions.
The material on the movements of the different units of the armies arrayed against Canudos also cries out for maps. Militarily, the Brazilian army committed one mistake after another, including expecting regular army units to know what to do about guerrilla warfare, underestimating the impact of the terrain on their ability to proceed and to avoid their enemy, getting separated from their supply train, not having enough supplies, letting the enemy capture their weapons and ammunition, and on and on.
He largely credits the eventual success of the Brazilian army, after three failed and one faltering attempt to take the town of Canudos, to an officer named de Bittencourt who finally got their supply trains in order and could regularly supply the troops at the front with food and ammunition. Except for some prisoners that the army had taken earlier, almost entirely women and children, everyone in Canudos died, often horribly. Atrocities were widespread. Conselheiro himself died of dysentery in the last days of the siege; his body was exhumed by the army and there are pictures of it available on the internet.
In his introduction to my edition, Ilan Stavans says that this book is a classic of Brazilian literature and gave Brazilians a sense of themselves as a people. It was something of a slog at times, but I'm glad I read it. It's given me renewed appreciation for what Vargas Llosa accomplished in The War at the End of the World , and may inspire me to reread it. Better late than never, I'm finally joining in this year with a South American read. Now to pick through the thread so far All looks fantastic up top by the way - well done Sassy and Steven on a great looking theme read!
Edited to correct a very sloppy omission of thanks! Glad you're joining in Polaris. I look forward to your take on Borges, whom no one else has tackled, somewhat to my surprise. I hope by now you've scrolled down and seen that the intro was a joint affair project with steven; my name just happens to appear first, but thanks! I've taken out my decades-old copy of Labyrinths by Borges, and even put it on the shelf on my bedside table, as I thought I could dip into it in the evenings, but so far.
Corrected my post above! Still weaving my way down the thread More soon I hope. I've been enjoying the thread without contributing - thank you! I've been reading Clarice Lispector's curious stories from the volume Family Ties. I find them intriguing and quite disorienting: it's hard to know where and when the stories take place and Brazil seems a long way away. In fact, they are much more Kafka than Pele. Well worth exploring though. My other South American read is a volume of selected poems Poemas Selectos by contemporary Venezuelan poet Rafael Cadenas , a writer for whom I have a soft spot.
I've been very slowly savouring his poems over recent years, but will make an effort to finish this book before this theme is out. Coincidentally, I happen to be reviewing the final volume of HBW, Handbook of the birds of the world, special volume , which has a South American theme. It publishes the descriptions of 15 new bird species from Amazonia; the last time descriptions of such a large number of new species were collated in a single work was in !
I've had that book on my bookshelf for the longest time, and maybe I'll finally get around to reading it over the December holidays. While they're works of non-fiction, both that book and Sarmiento's Facundo are often read as foundational works of Brazilian and Argentine literature, respectively. Your experience with Da Cunha sounds simliar to mine with Sarmiento: a slog, but worth the effort! It might be fun to compare and contrast young and old Borges. I've got Asis's O alienista on my bookshelf, and hope to get to it soon! Arlt is absolutely central to the development of Argentine narrative, and this book was translated to English not too long ago.
The seven madmen is a great book. Roberto Arlt IMO is one of the most unappreciated writers of the 20th century. We still need volunteers to lead the Central American read and postwar Germany read and I would like to wrap this by the end of the weekend so the first quarter leader can start planning. We definitely need someone who can lead one of these in the fourth quarter, but I can juggle the other quarters a little bit. There were 21 of you who voted "yes" for each of these reads, so there must be someone who can volunteer to lead them!
Thanks again to Rhonda for volunteering to lead the sub-Saharan Africa read and lilisin for volunteering to lead the travelogue read. From Argentina. The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal I really liked the central idea of this book -- a painting created over the course of 60 years on rolls of canvas ultimately extending more than 4 kilometers. And some of the writing was beautiful, and I could see that the author wanted to use the painting to explore communication among families.
But the plot that went along with this was a little convenient, and the revelation of family secrets a tad obvious. Juan Salvatierra has died when the novella opens, but the reader learns his backstory: after a gruesome riding accident as a child, he became mute whether for physiological or psychological reasons is unknown. He was apprenticed to a painter, later got a job at the post office, married, and had children. At the age of 20, he starts painting on these canvas rolls, recording what is happening in his life and in the community, and continues, with one roll per year, until is death.
His two sons return from Buenos Aires Salvatierra lived, and they grew up, near a river that forms the border between Argentina and Uruguay to figure out whether a cultural institution will take the rolls of painting. While looking at the rolls, they discover that one is missing, hence the missing year, and the narrator, son Miguel, decides to investigate. Needless to say, family secrets are revealed in the course of his exploration.
I read this novella in one afternoon, and I did enjoy it. Especially after reading Zola's The Masterpiece , it was interesting to experience another artist's mode of creation and read about the images he painted. But, in the end, I felt the author was trying to do something "meaningful" and didn't quite achieve it, and I also felt he tied up the loose ends too neatly.
Paradises by Iosi Havilio This novel is set mainly in modern day Buenos Aires, narrated by a woman who has moved there from a small town after her husband has died and left her and her young son destitute. She finds lodging at a rooming house, where she is befriended by a Romanian immigrant who helps her land a job at a local zoo. She subsequently moves into a nearby abandoned building, which houses a community of squatters that is headed by a woman dying of cancer, who relies on the new resident to give her intravenous injections of morphine to relieve her pain. The narrator integrates herself into the settlement and its shady characters, while maintaining close relationships with her Romanian friend and a running buddy from her old neighborhood, who has moved in with a wealthy drug addict nearby.
All three women and those around them are lonely, desperate people, bored with life and in search of temporary pleasure, in order to mask their anxieties and fears. The narrator frequently abandons her rambunctious son, as danger exists within and outside of the squatter settlement and whenever she meets up with her old friend. Paradises was a pleasant and well written but not particularly memorable read, with characters who live on the edge of society.
I didn't find them or the story to be particularly unique or enlightening, as people like these can be found in any major city in the world, but I liked this book enough that I would be willing to try other books by this author. Borges is my favorite author, ever. Everyone should read his work.
Someday I am going to own all his books, buy signed copies, buy a statue, make a shrine, make a pilgrimage to his grave Right now I have the Hurley translations, Ficciones in Spanish, and a mug with his library quote "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library". I see this quote all the time, but it doesn't mean what people think it means. The an English translation of the poem is here. Borges slowly went blind over his lifetime. I have no idea why this book only gets 3.