Clark Hays's Reviews > Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World

Bananas by Peter Chapman
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Nov 06, 11

Read in January, 2011

We live in a banana-shaped world

I found this work thoroughly engaging. It's as much a critique of capitalism unregulated as it is a history of the fruit or the fruit company. "Bananas" peels the skin back on big business to reveal a soft and rotten core. From land swindles to destabilizing governments, from machine gun massacres to human rights violation, from propaganda to market manipulation, Chapman takes an unflinching look at just how far an organization motivated solely by profits is willing to go. Featuring an interesting cast of characters - from Carmen Miranda and Harry Belafonte to Che Guevara and Castro - "El Pulpo" has had its yellow tentacles in everything from the Bay of Pigs to the Vietnam War. At times fascinating, repulsive and laugh out loud funny (such as when company officials complained that they were being under-compensated for land sold at the price it was taxed at, a tax level they fixed), this a great, wandering read through the history of a company that shaped the world. Sadly, it probably cast the die for how many global concerns now function - ruthlessly, and beholden only to their greedy shareholders. Also sadly, their insistence and reliance upon a monolithic form of agriculture, subject to the ravages of disease, may well have doomed the fruit we all love and take for granted.
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