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The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts (Latin American Trilogy)

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  3,605 ratings  ·  235 reviews
When the spoilt and haughty Dona Constanza tries to divert a river to fill her swimming pool, she starts a running battle with the locals. The skirmishes are so severe that the Government dispatches a squadron of soldiers led by the fat, brutal and stupid Figueras to deal with them.

Despite visiting plagues of laughing fits and giant cats upon the troops, the villagers know
Paperback, 376 pages
Published September 1st 1991 by Minerva (first published 1990)
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What can I say? This book is great. Louis de Bernieres really gets Latin America. I mean, any author can write about how tragic it is to live in a contemporary Latin American country (amid crushing poverty, constant unrest, military rule, etc). What de Bernieres recognizes is that everyday life in Latin America is also totally hilarious. This book empathizes with people in tragic circumstances by laughing at them. And, just as important, laughing with them and having them laugh at the reader. No ...more
Scribble Orca
Nov 05, 2012 Scribble Orca rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone

How could I have forgotten this gem?

This is what arises when one reads old letters intended for friends that have remained unsent, a kind of temporal journal of misplaced memories in which startling revelations unfold: did I do that? Oh....yes, I remember - that's what happened...ooooh, that wasn't very clever, was it?

So...this book. I have no idea why it was so impressive so many years ago. It just was. Here's what I had to say about it in this long-lost-recently-resurfaced piece of co
I last read ‘The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts’ about twenty years ago. I remember it as being a frustrating experience, that for all its colour and vibrancy it was a book which annoyed me. But then, as some books manage to do, it lingered in my mind – like the shadow of some half-forgotten dream – and even though two decades had passed I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something in ‘The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts’ worthwhile exploring further.

So I read it again.

Written be
Anyone who wishes to write fiction should read this book but prepared to be disappointed - in your own abilities in comparison with de Bernieres, who has swiftly become one of my favorite English writers. His style, plot, humor and candor make him irresistible, as does his subject matter, in this case, the impoverished campesinos of a mythical South American country. De Bernieres is like an English Marquez, crafting a land of magical realism with all the ugliness of the real world. De Bernieres' ...more
There are far too many characters and events to offer a sensical summary, but I'll give it a shot. We're in an imaginary South American country where an endless battle is going on between the government, the military, and guerilleros (many are communist) with civilians more or less suffering the consequences. This book is hilarious and fun to read and doesn't feel even remotely tragic, despite the fact that it's extremely violent and gory - there is rape, murder, torture, kidnapping, gun and mac ...more
I like Louis de Bernieres' writing quite a bit. He manages to do some very difficult things and make them look easy, too- always the mark of someone expert at what they do. Somehow he can combine humor with very sad or violent situations.

And- there is certainly no lack of these types of situations in his work. The amount of cruelty from man to man in Louis' books is appalling. There is so much graphic torture, violent death, rape, etc....that it's terrible.

And still, somehow I like his work. I j
Wow. Stupendous. Magnificent. This ranks right up there with Garcia Marquez and Allende. Glorious Latin American magical realism. So wonderful to read every step of the way. Brilliant, insightful, incisive, sly. And every character so fully drawn--I could pick each one out in a crowd. To write like this, in epic proportions, drawing from all walks of life and all types of human reasoning... what a truly wonderful talent to have. Can't wait to read his other books.

Too bad that movie version of "C
It has a great many ideas but often seems like de Bernieres is just using them without reason. When it's good, it's very good, it has the power to be charming, heartfelt, shocking and humorous all at the same time (the chapter introducing of Parlanchina is a great example). Unfortunately, some of the less powerful ideas drag the pace, especially when each idea rarely has any significance in later chapters of the book. It's more like 40 odd loosely connected short stories about a fictional south ...more
This is de Bernières’ first novel I think and it’s interesting to see how his later style is developing, with different sections devoted to very different characters and story types and with other sections devoted to history, politics, local traditions, and other typically “nonfiction” topics. I can see the writer of Corelli’s Mandolin developing here.

The influences behind this novel are clear: (1) de Bernières spent time teaching English in Colombia and that is clearly the unnamed republic in t
This is the first of de Bernieres' Latin American trilogy, set in a fictional South American country, heavily resembling Colombia (but with elements from many other Latin American countries as well). The plot follows multiple story lines and protagonists, including several villagers in the town of Chiriguaná, who are terrorized by corrupt militia, and the selfishness of the local landowners, and eventually decide to fight back. Other parts of the story show the terrible corruption of the militar ...more
Jan 09, 2008 Amy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites
This book, along with the other two in the series (Senor Vivo and the Coca Lords and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman) are what I like to call my 'sick books' - they're the books that I always read when I'm home sick from work - they're always entertaining, but since I've read them so many times, I don't have to strain my ill brain trying to follow them. Probably I've read these three books more than any others for that very reason.

This one in particular is actually not the first one
This is definitely one of my new favorite books. I enjoyed the previous book that I read by this author, and had lowered my expectations, but this one was even better.
It is definitely entertaining, but beyond that I was impressed by his ability to develop such a vast array of characters, create a world that was made up, but still could be anywhere. The details and subtleties of life and how things happened were the highlight of the book, and offered some excellent insight into why people and org
This ripping good read is almost too perfect: written by a no doubt crotchety Englishman, this farce is a distillation of Latin American magical realism, with a plethora of outlandish stories all boiled down into sparkling and colorful set-pieces set loose to writhe on a sultry chessboard of human misery and almost cheerfully morbid political skullduggery.

The prose style is excellent (as twisty but of course far more accomplished than the sample provided by this amateur in the preceding paragrap

"A story of life, love and politics in South America. When the spoilt and haughty Dona Constanza tries to divert a river to fill her swimming pool, she starts a running battle with the locals. The Government sends a squadron of soldiers led by the fat, brutal and stupid Figueras to deal with them." (From Amazon)

I wasn't really interested in the subject matter but the writing is well done.
Although it is incredibly funny, this book broke my heart. Some parts are so tragic and saddening that I wanted to cry. I could not find a character who bored me and the writing never lost steam. From beginning to end de Bernieres maintains his wonderful style and never drops the threads of his detailed plot. Like huge tapestry of love and war, this book makes Latin America very real to an English girl who has never left the continent. I will definitely be reading the author's other books and ca ...more
This is not the first book to read on your trip through Central America. Horrifying and hilarious, it is a vividly violent satire of post colonial Americas. After my nightmares of being held at knifepoint by taxi drivers in the dark subsided, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book and even laughed out loud several times at the absurdity of it all. For me though, the uncomfortable truths that are not so far beneath the surface never really let me relax completely. An excellent read, just somew ...more
Glen Engel-Cox
In the 80's, there was a fun independent board game that we would sometimes play called Junta. You played a corrupt power elite family member who gets assigned a stereotypical role (General, guerrilla leader, etc.) in an anonymous banana republic. For all its light-hearted fun of its subject, the underlying assumptions of the game were quite stark if you started to match things up to some of the news of the day. The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts is similarly troubling. Louis de Bernieres to ...more
I guess the comparisons to Gabriel Garcia Marquez are inevitable, but come on, you could do much worse than be compared to THAT icon. And tho I absolutely adore Garcia Marquez, de Bernieres is more accessible and injects more humor in his amazing creations. If I could exist in any fictional world created by an author, it would be in this town. I cannot recommend this book, and the rest of his trilogy enough. Brilliant, hilarious, brutal, and vulgar. I am in love.

At first I felt The War... pretty frustrating but when de Bernieres stopped giving detailed explanations about each character's background (this takes approximately a 150 pages) then the story becomes addictive AND then you find out that all the faffing about in the beginning was necessary for the plot's development. Like Captain Corelli's Mandolin, I spent about a week getting used to it and then finishing the book in one all nighter (well in my case it was a bus ride during rush hour). Really
This was quite possibly one of the most violent and strangest books I've ever read, and I've read a *lot* of strange and violent novels over the years. It was also one of the most fascinating, clever and enjoyable ones, too - impossible to put down. Loved the cats, General Fuerte, Aurelio was just wonderful, and the narrative was simply magical. I can't wait to get lost in the next one!
Having enjoyed Captain Corelli's Mandolin I picked up the box set of 3 of de'Berniere's earlier novels including this one - his first. To be honest I found it a bit boring. It took me half of the book to understand exactly what was going on and who was on who's side of the fight. This may have partly been due to the jumping around which goes on (as in Corelli's) but was not helped by the fact that the story didn't engage me. By the end I didn't really care what happened and half way through I co ...more
Was hard to get through the first half of this book as the perspective jumps around a lot and it is difficult to keep track of all the characters. But I am so glad I stuck with it. Was hilarious, beautiful, and terribly sad. Magic realism at its best.
Dense, radiant, and all too politically familiar. A great part of the trilogy. I can only read a few pages at a time. It takes a while to figure out this book.
Reading this book is a chore. Not because it's bad - it's not - but because I do not like this structure of storytelling. We are following events as they unfold through the eyes of several periodically recurring characters. I find this tiresome, especially since I am not immersed in the overarching story. I'm not even sure what the overarching story is. There are many themes: genocide, pointless violence, corruption, imperialism, racism, sexism, capitalism...and many other -isms. But the story.. ...more
Imagine: The intricacy of David Foster Wallace tempered by John Steinbeck's paisanos as well as a subtle, pulsing layer of Magical Realism.

Imagine also cats and syphilis; this book is cray.

Louis de Bernières' debut novel is a rollicking exploration of the troubles of humankind, as propelled by their aspirations/megalomania. Minor drives for first-world comforts and provincial power, i.e. swimming pool irrigation over crop irrigation, snowball into a full-on war between the far-left and the far
I read this book in the best frame of mind possible, which was not knowing anything about it. A very well read (in the best sense) friend recommended this book to me when she heard I was in South America. It wasn’t until I hit Colombia that I understood what she meant. The book is basically an observation of obscene governmental corruption, and its trickle down through the ranks to the most disenfranchised of a society. The writing is full of slapstick, theatre and absurdity, and alongside and w ...more
This book made me "that guy". (Well.. girl, but you know what I mean) The guy that sees Shaun Of The Dead and says "That wasn't even SCARY". The guy that sees Watchmen and picks out the superheroes that Alan Moore is 'ripping off'. Okay, there is one slight difference. I UNDERSTAND that this is satire. I just don't get what it is supposed to be satirizing and I don't feel amused by the way in which it is doing it. I guess...

Every few pages is saturated with horrific rape scenes, kidnappings, or
So many characters & substories - particularly in the beginning, that it was difficult to keep track of. one of the times that I think it would be worth keeping notes on the characters so I remember who did what, but I never do.

This book reminded me a lot of 100 years of solitude. I wonder if this is a style favoured by Spanish-American authors? There was so much fantasy woven with the story - the plague of cats, ghosts warning of danger, and just all of the crazy things that go on - the coi
Kevin Cecil
Louis de Bernieres first published novel, and the first of his I've read, reminded me of a Latin American CATCH 22. His prose has an interesting quality, as if it has been translated from another language, eliminating judgement and tonal nuances. While, upon this first reading, the narrative sometimes strayed too far from the path it wasn't following anyway, the situations were always clear and any narrative thread I thought was still hanging was tucked away nicely by the end. What I will carry ...more
Jayne Charles
The blurb on the back cover doesn't do this book justice - it's just a tiny part of what happens. This is a great big patchwork quilt of a book that entertains and horrifies in equal measure. It's hard to avoid comparisons with Gabriel Garcia Marquez given the setting, and the 'magical realism' but I found this a lot more enjoyable than Marquez. It's a book of great contrasts: One minute the pace will be very slow, the next minute the narrative will race ahead, covering many months in a single p ...more
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The Curious Bibli...: The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts 2 8 Jan 15, 2013 12:25PM  
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  • Fool on the Hill
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  • Boiling a Frog
  • The Electrical Field
  • A Good Man in Africa
  • Ingenious Pain
  • Then Came the Evening: A Novel
  • The House with the Blind Glass Windows
  • Wide Open (Thames Gateway, #1)
  • The Great World
  • Headlong
  • Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith
  • The Honorary Consul
  • What a Carve Up!
  • The Unfortunates
  • Shadow Without a Name: A Novel
  • Every Man for Himself
Novelist Louis de Bernières was born in London in 1954. He joined the army at 18 but left after spending four months at Sandhurst. After graduating from the Victoria University of Manchester, he took a postgraduate certificate in Education at Leicester Polytechnic and obtained his MA at the University of London.

Before writing full-time, he held many varied jobs including landscape gardener, motor
More about Louis de Bernières...

Other Books in the Series

Latin American Trilogy (3 books)
  • Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord
  • The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman
Captain Corelli's Mandolin Birds Without Wings Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman Red Dog

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“Eventually, in an historic feat of compromise, democracy was restored by the abolition of elections..” 1 likes
“The oligarchy was divided into Liberals and Conservatives, who were united in their terror of communism after the success of the Cuban Revolution, especially since many of them had had interests in the brothels and casinos of Havana; others had had interests in pharmaceutical companies that manufactured drugs to cure the diseases spread by the former, and some in supplying guns to be used by gangs struggling for control of the latter. However, the Liberals and Conservatives differed over how to combat the spread of such appalling beliefs as “equality,” “fair pay,” and “democracy.” The Conservatives believed in coming down hard on them; this involved being curt with your campesinos, keeping them illiterate, and paying them a fixed wage of 150 pesos a week. The Liberals, on the other hand, believed in being jolly with your campesinos, teaching them to read bits of paper with instructions on them, and paying them a fixed wage of 150 pesos a week. In this way they hoped that the peasants would become too contented to bother to be Communists. The whole situation became infinitely confused by the Conservatives’ habit of describing the Liberals as “Communists.” 0 likes
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