Alright, this isn't exactly Latin American literature, as I've categorized it. AND I ALMOST hated this. Despite its having been praised by Mario Varga...moreAlright, this isn't exactly Latin American literature, as I've categorized it. AND I ALMOST hated this. Despite its having been praised by Mario Vargas Llosa, one of my favorite writers. Really, this was yet-another bk I just wanted to get over w/ - like so many these days. Yes, yes, I loathe the conquistadors, I LOATHE the slavers, the seekers after gold, the G20 scum, the arms dealers. & this is the fictionalization of their story (minus the last 2), this is the quasi-epic. Maybe it's 'good' that Marcelo has told this story this way but, in the end, I just don't care (sortof). Toward the end Agüirre, of Werner Herzog fame, appears & that (sortof) perks it up.. but, whatever, in the end, I just hate this history, this fiction, this aspect of humanity. I look forward to when the arms dealers will be tarred & feathered out of every city they show their sorry greedy asses in, when every conquistador searching for gold is too widely recognized as an asshole that spoils everybody else's party to be able to attract an army. Good riddance. Dance.(less)
I'm a big fan of these Avon Bard Latin American literature bks. I've never read one that I didn't like. This one, b/c it's based on anthropological re...moreI'm a big fan of these Avon Bard Latin American literature bks. I've never read one that I didn't like. This one, b/c it's based on anthropological research into extinct "shell-mound people" is quite different from any of the other bks I've read in the series. It's also distinguished as being possibly the only one of the Bard bks that I've found written by a woman.
At 1st, reading this was slow-going for me. Since the style of the writing was an attempt to be as accurately as possible based on research into a people long-since gone, this writing was appropriately stunted in its ideas. But Ribeiro does a good job of evoking this world & certainly managed to engage me in the lives of the characters. Her comparison between the 2 main tribes represented was particularly fascinating - similarly effective to me as was the movie "Quest for Fire". & there was plenty of dramatic action to suck in any reader of novels looking for thrills. (less)
Ahh.. What a pleasure it is to give this bk a good review! The 1st bk I read of Traven's was probably "The Death Ship" - wch details the slow decay of...moreAhh.. What a pleasure it is to give this bk a good review! The 1st bk I read of Traven's was probably "The Death Ship" - wch details the slow decay of a sailor's life as a result of facets of 'modern' life that the author & I abhor in common - like nationalistic borders & parasitic capitalism (is there any other kind?). I loved "The Death Ship" but it started out humorous & turned increasingly grim as the bk made its point clearer & clearer. Then I think I read 2 of the 6 "Jungle Novels" wch, according to a short description in the back of this bk, "describe the conditions of peonage and debt slavery under which the Indians suffered in Díaz's time." [ie: before the Mexican Revolution] These were extremely insightful political novels, as was "The Death Ship", & also GRIM - almost 'unbearable'. As such, even though I considered Traven to be a great political writer, I hesitated to read more - my mood is often too depressing as is.
SO, I read this anyway. & it was akin to "The Death Ship" in its sarcastic, philosophical, & subtle humour - BUT, the protaganist has a sortof 'easier' time of it & the Mexican Revolution is shown as being somewhat triumphant. It was a relief. I assume that it was historically accurate when it depicts greedy restaurant owners as being successfully forced into cooperation w/ unions BY THE POLICE! What a time that must've been!
Now, I've lumped this together w/ Tom Collins' great Australian cattle-driver novel "Such Is Life" by putting it on my "working-class-intellectuals" bookshelf. From me, that's an honor. Whether Traven's actual life trajectory deserves this or not I don't know. I've read sparse, & perhaps conflicting, bios about him. This bk's afterword claims:
"The mysterious B. Traven (1890-1969) was born in Chicago, spent his youth in Germany as an itinerant actor and revolutionary journalist, became a seaman on tramp steamers, settled in Mexico in the early 1920s, and began recording his experiences in novels and stories."
That rings 'true' - but then so do conflicting claims! Whatever the case, Traven writes like he's been there. Damn, he even makes reference to Baltimore row-homes! Making me wonder whether he'd ever been THERE. If he had, that perks my interest even more. To make Traven even more akin to Collins, there's even a cattle herding. It's all interesting, politically astute, sad, funny, & there's even some uplifting triumph for workers! &, unlike Collins, he wrote many bks! HOORAY FOR B. TRAVEN!
"The Cotton Pickers", by the by, was also called "DER WOBBLY", & was either Traven's 1st or 2nd novel. To make the plot even thicker, one supposedly unsubstantiated theory has it that Traven might've been Arthur Craven - the dadaist/boxer who's reputed to've disappeared off the coast of Mexico in a small boat. Wdn't THAT be a trip. (less)
Hhmm.. I hate it when a search for the ISBN number yields a result clearly not the same as the bk I'm reading. My copy of the bk has 247pp & the o...moreHhmm.. I hate it when a search for the ISBN number yields a result clearly not the same as the bk I'm reading. My copy of the bk has 247pp & the one listed here has 322. That's a pretty significant difference. I'm not surprised that the cover's different or that the publication date's different but 75 extra pages?! Maybe the edition listed is larger print or whatever. Or it cd be a mistake - after all, it's listed by Amazon & I frequently find mistakes in their postings. Whatever. I won't change it.
ANYWAY, this took me a little over a day to read. It seems like it's been a long time since I whipped thru a novel that fast. I hesitated to read this, even though I consider Vargas-Llosa one of my favorite novelists. Why? I'm not even sure I 'know'. Maybe it's b/c there's almost always torture & murder involved - w/ this bk being no exception. I've read almost everything by him - including a Granta edition of interviews & the like from around the time when he was running for president of Peru. What?! Me liking a writer who was a somewhat serious presidential candidate?! Remember, this is Peru I'm talking about.. not the US. STILL, me liking the writing of a presidential candidate?!
Vargas-Llosa came to lecture or read or some-such at CMU sometime since I've lived in Pittsburgh. I didn't attend. I was told that a woman political activist harangued him. I reckon he's considered to have 'conservative' politics.. His political opinions, as expressed in the aforementioned Granta interviews, struck me as more cautious & bland than anything else - extremely naive, perhaps. &, yet, his bks are far from naive. I wonder if I wd've found the harangueing political activist an example of what I've come to think of as the "new Christinanity" - ie: the political activism that thrives on its own high-&-mighty holier-than-thou oversimplifications. Vargas-Llosa is far from oversimplifying. That's one of the main reasons why I love his work.
"Death in the Andes" is a novel about disappearances in a highly troubled area of Peru. The main investigator of these disappearances is "Corporal Lituma", a character that's appeared in at least one other Vargas-Llosa novel. The Corporal suspects the "Sendero" (Sendero Luminosa - the "Shining Path" Maoists of Peru) who're referred to as "terrucos" ('terrorists') & who're active in the area. This immediately both peaks my interest & complicates matters for me. Any group referred to as "terrorists" may very well be so by my standards but I always have to wonder whether whoever's calling them that may not represent something even worse. In other words, the state obviously relies on terrorism to maintain its power & relies on calling its enemies "terrorists" in order to defame them.
My impression, though, perhaps based on too little info, is that the Sendero were/are dogmatic militants w/ a hard party line. This impression is supported by "Death in the Andes" so it rings true for me. Here's a sample of the interaction between a Sendero & an ecological activist that they're about to execute:
"'Are you going to kill me?' she asked, hearing her voice break for the first time.
The one in the leather jacket looked into her eyes without blinking.
'This is war, and you are a lackey of our class enemy,' he explained, staring at her with blank eyes, delivering his monologue in an expressionless voice. 'You don't even realize that you are a tool of imperialism and the bourgeois state. Even worse, you permit yourself the luxury of a clear conscience, seeing yourself as Peru's Good Samaritan. Your case is typical.'
'Can you explain that to me?' she said. 'In all sincerity, I don't understand. What am I a typical case of?'
'The intellectual who betrays the people,' he said with the same serene, icy confidence. 'The intellectual who serves bourgeois power and the ruling class. What you do here has nothing to do with the environment. It has to do with your class and with power. You come here with bureaucrats, the newspapers provide publicity, and the government wins a battle. Who said that this was liberated territory? That a part of the New Democracy has been established in this zone? A lie. There's the proof. Look at the photographs. A bourgeois peace reigns in the Andes. You don't know this either, but a new nation is being born here. With a good deal of blood and suffering. We can show no mercy to such powerful enemies.'"
While Vargas-Llosa clearly considers the Sendero to be terrorists & while this writing can easily be classified as propaganda against them, just how unfair is it? I don't live in Peru, it's a hard call for me. The intellectual points presented above seem like a very clear analysis - nonetheless, it's being used to justify executions & any ideology used for that is repulsive to me. I'm not personally in any hurry to kill anyone. According to WikiPedia (another source of info that I usually respect but, nonetheless, see as having an unacknowledged suspect class agenda subtext), the Sendero have denounced "Human Rights" as it's usually understood by 'Western' 'liberal' culture in the following statement:
"We start by not ascribing to either Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Costa Rica [Convention on Human Rights:], but we have used their legal devices to unmask and denounce the old Peruvian state. . . . For us, human rights are contradictory to the rights of the people, because we base rights in man as a social product, not man as an abstract with innate rights. "Human rights" do not exist except for the bourgeois man, a position that was at the forefront of feudalism, like liberty, equality, and fraternity were advanced for the bourgeoisie of the past. But today, since the appearance of the proletariat as an organized class in the Communist Party, with the experience of triumphant revolutions, with the construction of socialism, new democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat, it has been proven that human rights serve the oppressor class and the exploiters who run the imperialist and landowner-bureaucratic states. Bourgeois states in general. . . . Our position is very clear. We reject and condemn human rights because they are bourgeois, reactionary, counterrevolutionary rights, and are today a weapon of revisionists and imperialists, principally Yankee imperialists.
– Communist Party of Peru, Sobre las Dos Colinas[31:]"
ANYWAY, I thought this was a great bk. Clashing cultures are presented in what seems to me to be a reasonably honest manner. The Civil Guard that the central character represents are hardly presented as the 'good guys' - most of them are shown as torturers, thugs, & thieves. But then what do I 'know'? I live in relative luxury in the primo Imperialist country of the world - surrounded by bks & videos & whatnot. I've got it good - even though I'm scum in this society. If I were a peasant in Peru I might hate Vargas-Llosa's guts - if I cd even have access to his bks & if I'd be able to read them - wch might be highly improbable. (less)
Loved it, enjoyed it, totally engrossed. It seems stupid (even to me) to have a bookshelf labelled "Latin American" but the reason I do so is b/c 11 y...moreLoved it, enjoyed it, totally engrossed. It seems stupid (even to me) to have a bookshelf labelled "Latin American" but the reason I do so is b/c 11 yrs ago I organized a Latin American Festival at Chatham College that stimulated me to read a shitload of Latin American novels - so I tend to lump them all together: not w/ any sortof nationalizing intentions but more geographic/lingual/whatever. Anyway, it never ceases to amaze me how many great Latin American novelists there are. This is the 1st one I've read by Jorge Amado - whose "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands" was very popular.
This ISN'T "magic realism" - let's get that out of the way: not every Latin American novel is magic realism - that's just become a pseudo-critical catchphrase. It IS fanciful, though. The basic story is of a man who poses as a retired sea-captain in order to 'enoble' himself & the trouble he gets into as a result. There's a more general philosophical thrust here & most or all of the characters are deluded in some way or another. (less)
There are so many amazing Latin American writers. There are so many amazing Latin American political satires. How have these people survived all the d...moreThere are so many amazing Latin American writers. There are so many amazing Latin American political satires. How have these people survived all the dictatorships? All the US brutal interference in their countries? It's practically miraculous. Maybe that's one explanation for Magical Realism: you'd have to feel like miracles were happening if you were a critical intellectual surviving the Argentinian dictatorships of the 1970s. This particular author survived by being exiled to Mexico. The novel is about a poetry club whose members are all marked for death by a death squad. (less)
The title story is, of course, probably what made Cortázar famous b/c Antonioni made a film from it. Now, how many people even remember Antonioni when...moreThe title story is, of course, probably what made Cortázar famous b/c Antonioni made a film from it. Now, how many people even remember Antonioni when we have so many flashy superhero movies to choose from?(less)
The name of this bk refers to its being structured so that the reader can read it either from the beginning thru to chapter 56 OR starting w/ chapter...moreThe name of this bk refers to its being structured so that the reader can read it either from the beginning thru to chapter 56 OR starting w/ chapter 73 & jumping around, Hopscotch style, in a prescribed manner that doesn't follow 1-56 linearity. I might've read it both ways. I definitely read it the Hopscotch way. Cortázar was an Argentinian expatriate who lived in Paris. This is a novel about his fellow ex-pats & their friends & their lifestyle of artistic & musical pursuits, drinking mate, good conversation, etc.. I'll forever assoicate this w/ the deep pleasure of discussion & study amongst passionate friends. It's particularly associated w/ a small group of intellectuals/readers in Baltimore in the late 1970s. (less)
My favorite 'Latin American' writer. Probably a ridiculous category given how many people that includes, etc, but I use it anyway for simplicity's sak...moreMy favorite 'Latin American' writer. Probably a ridiculous category given how many people that includes, etc, but I use it anyway for simplicity's sake. I've read everything I can find by him. & just when I thought I'd read it all, I found something I'd never seen before. (less)
Alas, I was knee-high to a grasshopper when I read this. In fact, I was in my mother's womb. How on Earth did I smuggle the bk in? Maybe I was inside...moreAlas, I was knee-high to a grasshopper when I read this. In fact, I was in my mother's womb. How on Earth did I smuggle the bk in? Maybe I was inside somebody else's mother's womb. Whatever the case, I'm using the time elapsed as an excuse for not remembering much about this. Nonetheless, I remember being disappointed by it. It seems that it makes fun of "modernism" in the usual kindof so-called 'conservative' way. Not that "modernism" can't stand to be deflated but it's all a matter of what one is posing as supposedly better to it. I don't recall being impressed by this bk's alternatives. Maybe there weren't any. (less)
Ah, Borges! What literate person doesn't love him? What person who has read him doesn't appreciate the subtlety & recursiveness? Well, maybe the A...moreAh, Borges! What literate person doesn't love him? What person who has read him doesn't appreciate the subtlety & recursiveness? Well, maybe the Argentinian dictators - but he seems to've survived that horrible period so, who knows? I don't. (less)
11 yrs ago, I read almost every Latin American writer (50 or so?) in my overflowing personal library. I liked almost all of it. I don't really remembe...more11 yrs ago, I read almost every Latin American writer (50 or so?) in my overflowing personal library. I liked almost all of it. I don't really remember this one at all, but my feelings about that era of my reading are so positive that I just MUST give this bk a 4 star rating. (less)
A grim fictional look at El Salvador. Good reading for those of us who want to understand further what people in the US, like members of CISPES, were...moreA grim fictional look at El Salvador. Good reading for those of us who want to understand further what people in the US, like members of CISPES, were protesting about in the 1980s & beyond. (less)